Food shortages in Guatemala threaten hundreds of thousands, warns UN agency

A funding shortfall may force WFP to suspend production and distribution of a fortified food blend in Guatemala

10 September 2009 – Urgent funding is needed to help combat an acute hunger crisis that is ravaging much of Guatemala, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.

The agency cautioned that money only exists to provide food aid to some tens of thousands of families in Guatemala until the end of September, including the provision of a fortified food to 100,000 children under the age of three and 50,000 pregnant-lactating women.

More than 90 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition were admitted to the national hospital of Jalapa in August – three times higher than the same month last year – and out of the 117 children rushed to the hospital between January and July, 17 have died, WFP noted in a situation report issued last week.

In its immediate response to the food crisis in Guatemala’s so-called “dry corridor,” WFP has committed 20 tons of High Energy Biscuits (HEB) and 200 tons of other food supplies, including corn soy blended food, black beans and corn to complement Government rations assisting 75,000 families living in the most affected areas.

WFP will also expand a food-for-work scheme to support another 93,000 families affected by damage to the upcoming harvest and who will need assistance for around six months.

The Government has also made $7.5 million available to complete the first phase of its National Contingency Plan while calling on donors to make further donations in response to the crisis, according to WFP.

However, food shortages are likely to worsen, with a 60 to 80 per cent loss of crops expected in the upcoming harvest in some of Guatemala’s provinces, which would put even more households at very high risk of becoming food insecure.

WFP noted that the annual food shortages caused by droughts in the six provinces of the “dry corridor” – Jutiapa, Santa Rosa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, El Progreso and Baja Verapaz – has been intensified by previous crop losses, low food stocks, combined with declining remittances, exports, tourism and foreign investment and rising unemployment due to the global recession.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced today that the country team plans to issue a flash appeal in the coming days to respond to the current humanitarian crisis in the Central American country.


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