Need for aid rises

Since May, Guatemala has endured the wrath of a paralyzing drought. In response, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom was forced to declare a state of national calamity.

The ongoing drought has left the majority of Guatemalan citizens without food. The drought, which is also wreaking havoc in four other countries, is attributed to global warming and the aftermath of the global economic crisis.

In an attempt to secure funding and food resources, Colom publicly discussed Guatemala’s need for aid. The BBC reported that in one of Colom’s many pleas he stated, “There is food, what is lacking is the money for the affected people to buy food.”

In response, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced their decision to begin distributing 20 tonnes of nutritional biscuits to the worst affected areas. The WFP have also estimated that 1.4 million people have been affected in the region, more than half of them critically, according to the BBC.

The drought has been called the worst that the country has seen in 70 years. The decimation of farmers’ reserves, in particular, is blamed on a series of climate changes, including two previous droughts. According to Agence France-Presse, this most recent drought has already claimed 460 lives since the start of the year.

Bloomberg reported that Colom, in a televised address, made a desperate request for support from within the country, stating, “I am making a fervent call to all of the country’s sectors to contribute to confronting this grave problem.”

Considering that nearly 75 per cent of Guatemalans live below the poverty level, according to the World Bank, malnutrition is an extreme threat. The WFP reports that seven out of 10 children under the age of five in Guatemala’s highlands are malnourished.

Agence France-Press reported that as of Friday, the Guatemalan government made a plea with the international community requesting 110 million dollars in aid to cope with the crisis.

Colom is proposing that funding will be used to provide proper nutrition for the estimated 410,000 families who have been affected by the drought. According to the CIA World Fact book, the Guatemalan population sits at approximately 13 million as of July 2009. Such statistics showcase the crisis’ widespread impact throughout the country.

According to the Guatemala Times, geographical areas most affected by severe drought have suffered over $7 million in lost crop production.

The “dry corridor”, the most drought-affected areas, is in the east of the country. It is here that crop production has failed altogether. This area includes the provinces of El Progreso, Jalapa, Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, Chiquimula, Zacapa and Baja Verapaz.