“Malnutrition is not just being hungry. Malnutrition is not having access to the basics of your human rights”
Jeff Abbott writes in Al Jazeera about the scourge of malnutrition in Guatemala, especially among Indigenous peoples, and the complete indifference of the Government and the country’s elites.
Doctor Ricardo Valdez hikes up a steep, worn path towards a series of makeshift wooden houses with rusted steel roofs in a small community on the outskirts of Coban, Alta Verapaz.
Located around 200km (124 miles) north of Guatemala City, Coban has been grappling with an epidemic of child malnutrition, worsened in the past two years by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing humanitarian crisis – a problem critics say the government has neglected.
Overall, Guatemala has one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition, with nearly half of children under five suffering from chronic malnutrition, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In some rural communities, that number is reportedly as high as 80 percent.
Valdez soon reaches the home of Margarita Xol, a 28-year-old single mother of two, who is unemployed. Her children are malnourished, which has led to multiple bouts of pneumonia in her youngest daughter, now almost two years old.
“I thought my daughter was going to die,” Xol told Al Jazeera. “I felt sad. [I didn’t know] what I was going to do.”
She says she received little assistance from the Guatemalan public healthcare system, so she sought help from a local NGO called Comunidad Esperanza, with which Valdez works. The group has provided her with food aid, including a steady supply of goat’s milk, which she continues to receive to this day.
“We stepped in because the Ministry of Health was not going to do anything,” Valdez told Al Jazeera, noting that the problem of malnutrition in the country “is much bigger than it seems, than what is shown in the statistics”.
You can read the full article, including links and stark photos by the author, here, ‘Abandons its people’: Guatemala’s malnutrition crisis deepens.