Drought Ravages Guatemala's Children
In Regional Food Crisis, Many Have Nowhere to Turn, 'Nothing Left to
By Kevin Sullivan Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, March 19,
2002; Page A12
CAJON DEL RIO, Guatemala--Central America's worst drought in more
than a decade has caused the deaths of more than 125 children in
Guatemala, the hardest-hit country in a region in which thousands of
lives are threatened by failing crops and spreading hunger, according
to government officials and aid workers.
The drought has scorched huge swaths of Guatemala, El Salvador,
Honduras and Nicaragua since it began last year, killing off crops on
which subsistence farmers rely to feed their families in isolated
rural villages where life is hand-to-mouth in the best of times.
The region's problems are showing up most acutely in Guatemala, where
the government says that half of all children are chronically
malnourished and that 75 percent of the country's 11 million people
live in poverty. President Alfonso Portillo has said 80 percent of
Guatemalans live "in misery."
The U.N. World Food Program will announce a $4.8 million emergency
program today to provide food for 60,000 malnourished Guatemalan
children under age 5, at least 6,000 of whom are in danger of dying.
More than 125 infants and toddlers have already died from
malnutrition in small communities like this one in the barren hills
near the border with Honduras, according to a count by the Guatemalan
Jordan Dey, a spokesman for the World Food Program, said huge numbers
of poor people "have already exhausted their survival mechanisms" as
the drought has lingered. "They've already eaten the few small farm
animals they had; they've run out of seed; they've pulled their
children from school to work; and food sharing among families is no
longer helpful, because there is nothing left to share," he said.
The Health Ministry recently conducted a study that found that more
than 80 percent of the population is malnourished in some of the
worst-hit municipalities, principally in the eastern part of the
country near Honduras. The health minister, Mario Rene Bolanos, said
the government has established more than 60 emergency feeding centers
but that at least 100 are needed.
In another program established to combat the effects of the drought,
mothers bring their infants and toddlers to this village 100 miles
east of Guatemala City once a month to be hoisted into a canvas sling
and weighed. Nurses check weights against heights, trying to
determine which of these skinny children are merely malnourished and
which are in danger of dying.
Two weeks ago, Alba Lidia Sanchez's year-old son developed diarrhea,
and three days later he died. He was one of five children in this
hamlet of 900 people who have died in the past month. "He died so
fast there was nothing I could do," Sanchez said, as her scrawny 2-
year-old daughter clung to her dress.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
This I think is related to new policies on Colorado river water
impacting the entire region, combined with the lack of El Nino from
the warmer Pacific. Very very sad.
This is another way of saying warmer means less biosphere.