GUATEMALA CITY – The Guatemalan government will invest some 1.7 billion quetzales ($203 million) in 2001 to guarantee the country’s food security, officials said on Tuesday.
Several regions of Guatemala, especially the “dry corridor” in the east, were seriously affected in 2009 by a prolonged drought that caused the deaths of at least 54 children and affected 54,000 poor families.
The “Guatemala sin Hambre” (Guatemala Without Hunger) program, according to the secretary for Food and Nutritional Security, Lily Caravantes, will be directed by the Social Cohesion Council, presided over by first lady Sandra Torres de Colom.
Caravantes told reporters that her department expects there to be a greater number of serious cases of malnutrition in 2010 than were registered last year.
In 2009, authorities tallied 2,329 cases of acute malnutrition, 1,000 of them in the dry corridor, which includes the provinces of El Progreso, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa and Baja Verapaz.
Government meteorologists expect the rainy season will start late this year and that several provinces will be vulnerable to drought.
President Alvaro Colom’s government is scheduled, in the next few days, to present its anti-hunger strategy to the international community and to businessmen with the aim of getting them to collaborate on the plan.
An adviser to the Social Cohesion Council, Ana de Mendez, said that the strategy will be carried out via several social programs that were pushed last year, including Mi Familia Progresa, Comedores Solidarios and Bolsas Solidarias.
During 2009, Mi Familia Progresa helped 477,000 Guatemalan families, while Bolsas Solidarias aided 56,418 households.
The Agriculture Ministry plans in 2010 to distribute some 100,000 food packages to poor families with the aim of alleviating their lack of homegrown or locally-purchased food.
The United Nations says Guatemala has the highest level of chronic child malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean (49.3 percent) and one of the highest rates in the world.
Fifty-two percent of Guatemala’s 14 million citizens live below the poverty line, according to government figures. EFE