GUATEMALA CITY – The Guatemalan government on Tuesday declared a nationwide “nutritional risk alert” to avoid a food crisis in the country’s poorest areas where thousands of people don’t have enough food to survive.
Press secretary Ronaldo Robles told reporters that the measure was taken by President Alvaro Colom and his Cabinet to facilitate the implementation of a contingency plan designed by the National Council for Food and Nutritional Security, or Conasan.
“This is a nutritional risk alert, not an emergency. What is being sought with this measure is, precisely, to prevent the emergency,” Robles said.
To implement the plan, which includes the distribution of food to at-risk families, the government needs 324 million quetzales ($40.5 million), of which it only has 46 million quetzales ($5.8 million).
“Financial resources will have to be sought from different sources, but the important thing is obtaining them by means of a tax reform,” Robles said.
In addition to the distribution of food, the plan sets forth mechanisms to monitor the results obtained in its initial phases, as well as the stockpiling of reserves to prevent the development of a full-blown food emergency.
Extreme effects caused by climate change ranging from prolonged droughts to heavy rains have damaged the harvests of millions of poor farmers in the country’s interior.
The so-called “dry corridor,” which spans nine provinces, along with the southern coastal communities affected by the rains, are the areas that have been most affected.
Conasan says that some 5,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition nationwide and another 10,000 are “at risk” due to their lack of minimum nutrients.
A study by the national ombud’s office released last week said that up until March at least 808,137 cases of chronic malnutrition had been tallied on the national level.
Action Against Hunger, an international NGO, said that in the dry-corridor provinces of Jalapa and Chiquimula the lack of food forced poor families to reduce the average amount of food a person consumes each day by 40 percent from 1.23 pounds to 0.75 pounds. EFE