GUATEMALA: Salesian Missionaries are Mobilizing to Assist More Than 130,000 People in Desperate Need of Food Aid Due to Recent Drought
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries living and working in communities in Guatemala are helping to provide food aid and other support to families affected by a recent drought in the country. Guatemala’s government recently issued a state of emergency after 256,000 families, most living in rural areas, lost their crops and are experiencing food shortages due to the severity of the drought.
The El Niño weather cycle has caused a prolonged heat wave in what otherwise would be Central America’s rainy season, killing thousands of cattle and drying up crops across the region. Farmers growing peas, green beans and broccoli estimate that they will lose up to 40 percent of their crops this year. In addition, almost 80 percent of corn and beans, staples of the Guatemalan diet, are anticipated to wither on the stalk this season leaving little to be harvested.
The drought has also affected parts of Honduras and El Salvador. Close to 2.8 million people in Central America will need food assistance due to the combined impact of severe drought, the Coffee Rust plague and a spike in food prices, according to the World Food Program.
“They are subsistence farmers and day-to-day laborers who are in a critical situation due to the combination of three factors,” said Miguel Barreto, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Food Program, in a recent article about the drought. “First, they lost their subsistence crops, mostly beans and maize, to the drought. Second, due to the outbreak of the Coffee Rust plague in 2012, coffee production dropped and so did the demand for jobs and the families’ income. And finally, a shortage of beans and maize has caused a rise in food prices in all countries.”
“Some families resort to dangerous survival tactics, such as skipping or reducing the size of meals. Others simply stop sending their children to school to save money. Others send the head of households to Mexico or the United States to find jobs,” added Barreto in the same article.
Because of the drought and food shortages, an estimated 500,000 children under the age of five are at imminent risk of starvation which is devastating in a country that already struggles with chronic undernutrition. According to World Food Program, the chronic undernutrition rate for children under five is 49.8 percent, the highest in the region and the fourth highest in the world.
Salesian missionaries already working and living in Guatemalan communities are perfectly positioned to respond to the crisis. Missionaries in the municipalities of Alta Verapaz, Peten and Quetzaltenango are mobilizing to assist more than 130,000 people in desperate need of food aid and other basic assistance.
“Salesians are on the ground already working with local populations so the response to emergencies like this is usually very quick,” explains Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions. “Because of our existing infrastructure, our partners trust us to be able to get supplies to people in need.”
Emergency situations aside, Salesians have been providing ongoing assistance and education to poor youth and their families in Guatemala for many years through Salesian youth centers, primary and secondary schools and programs for indigenous populations throughout the country.
“Salesian programs are flexible and adaptable to the communities and countries we serve,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Communities have different needs and we help as we can, all the while working to help people break the cycle of poverty and lead productive, healthy lives.”
Salesian Missions – Guatemala
World Food Programs – Central America Battles Impact Of Drought And Coffee Rust