Food running out in drought-ravaged Guatemala

In an interview with Guatemala’s Prensa Libre (Spanish), Irma Palma, the acting director of the World Food Programme field office, says that the WFP will be forced to send out a flash appeal in hopes of remedying a desperate food shortage in eastern Guatemala. A recent study completed for the UN Humanitarian Network concluded that 77 percent of families in effected areas would run out of food supplies in January or February. CERF funds that helped deliver 2,947 tons of food aid ran out in December.

Guatemala suffered its worst drought in 30 years last year, but, as Palma points out, lack of water is but one aspect of the problem.  Food prices have increased while remittances dropped 20 percent in 2009, which can be directly linked to the economic situation in the U.S.   Neighboring countries (see this excellent map from ReliefWeb) have faced similar issues,  but Guatemala has the most dire shortage in the region.

Last August, Samuel Loewenburg, in a dispatch to The Atlantic, detailed the unique food security issues in Guatemala, which has the sixth worst chronic malnutrition rate in the world “despite being what might be described as a relatively well-off lower-middle class country.” Loewenburg’s analysis of the effects of malnutrition in Guatemala are worth a read (or you could just watch the accompanying slideshow).