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Drought, Food Shortages Lead Guatemala To Declare ‘State of Public Calamity’

“Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared ‘a state of public calamity’ late Tuesday to help mobilize funds and resources to confront a food shortage that will affect thousands of families,” the Associated Press reports (9/9).

During a nationally televised address, Colom said the declaration “will help us access resources from the international community” and will expedite the mobilization of national resources, making it easier to get food to the families who are in dire need, according to CNN. He “said the nation’s food problems are the result of a drought this year, global warming and the effects of the international economic crisis. He also cited the Central American nation’s ‘history of unfairness that has made Guatemala live since long ago with high and shameful poverty levels, extreme poverty and undernutrition,'” CNN writes (9/9).

The government estimates 400,000 families are “at risk of food insecurity,” according to Guatemalan presidential spokesman Ronaldo Robles. “The crisis is focused in six provinces known as the ‘dry corridor,’ a region that faces annual food shortages,” the AP writes (9/9).

Bloomberg reports that Colom committed to increasing money allocated to reduce malnutrition rates, saying, “I am making a fervent call to all of the country’s sectors to contribute to confronting this grave problem.” A U.N. report found that this year, about 1,200 children have been hospitalized for malnutrition in the “eastern district of Jalapa where the drought is most intense” (Sabo, 9/9). Aid workers say that although “[m]any people in Guatemala suffer from malnutrition,” a “sharp drop in remittances sent home by relatives working” in the U.S. has created an even more difficult situation for low-income families, Reuters writes (Grainger, 9/9).  

Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), CNN reports (9/9). The WFP, which operates a feeding programme in Guatemala for about 350,000 people, said it would start distributing 20 tons of nutritional biscuits to the worst affected areas, the BBC writes (9/9).