Lagging Education for Girls Contributes to Guatemala

Susan notes: Buried at the bottom of an economist article about poverty in Guatemala is this telling statement: “Guatemala lags behind in educating girls in particular.” The piece goes on to say that mothers lacking in education may improperly prepare and distribute food supplements to their starving children, thus contributing to the ongoing widespread malnutrition in a country “rich enough to prevent it.”

malnutrition_guatemala.jpgIt is hardly one of Latin America’s poorest countries, but according to Unicef almost half of Guatemala’s children are chronically malnourished—the sixth-worst performance in the world.

In parts of rural Guatemala, where the population is overwhelmingly of Mayan descent, the incidence of child malnutrition reaches 80%. A diet of little more than tortillas does permanent damage.

This chronic problem has become acute. Higher world prices for food have coincided with a recession-induced fall in money sent back from Guatemalans working in the United States (remittances equal 12% of Guatemala’s GDP).

Drought in eastern Guatemala has made things worse still. Many families can scarcely afford beans, an important source of protein, and must sell eggs from their hens rather than feed them to their children.

The government and aid donors are providing emergency food supplies for 300,000 people scattered in some 700 villages. Up to 400,000 more may need help. In Jocotán, in the east, rehabilitation centres have admitted dozens of children who are so malnourished that their black hair has turned blond, their faces are chubby from fluid build-up as their organs fail, the veins in their legs become a visible black spider-web and their face muscles are too weak to smile.

What makes this even more distressing is that Guatemala is rich enough to prevent it.

Click here to read the full story:
The Economist

Photo @ Reuters