Mother Earth or Death
By – Guatemala has one of the world’s highest numbers of chronically malnourished children and is worst in Latin America and the Caribbean. Around 50 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Among the indigenous population, the majority, nearly eight out of ten children are chronically malnourished. Guatemala is far worse than most sub-Saharan African countries. Jesper Klemedsson
Guatemala is a lower middle-income country, but is one of the world’s most unequal. Three percent of private landowners occupying nearly 70 percent of the arable lands where coffee, sugar cane, palm oil and rubber trees are grown for export. Since 2000 the proportion of chronically malnourished children has increased simultaneously as the country’s economy has grown. Little suggests that the widespread malnutrition and unequal distribution of wealth in the next few years will be improved. Rather the opposite.
Outside Patulul Such, former cornfields have become a large rubber tree plantation. Large-scale monoculture expansions in Guatemala are competing with small farmers of the land. Households that previously were self-sufficient must now instead rely on the local market. Furthermore, the limited incomes from season based low-paid work do not guarantee the households access to adequate food. Three percent of private landowners own nearly 70 percent of all arable land.
Isabela Tuc Chiroy, five years old in Canton Pawakal, Cerro de Oro. Isabel has ten siblings in total. Three are dead because of illness related to chronic malnutrition. Her mother is a single mother after the dad drank himself to death. Food is never enough.
Tortillas in basket in the village San Gregorio. For many families, the everyday food consists in large of tortillas with some beans and possibly some vegetables. Malnutrition is often not seen on the outside - 75 percent of children who will die from malnutrition show no obvious signs of starvation. The life threatening injuries are internal and especially damage the barin.
Religious altar in the village of Pampojila. For many of Guatemalas poor, parts of the Church have become one of the few organizations that actually work for their interests. Radical clerics take their side in the struggle for fertile land, partly as negotiators towards large farms and in some cases; priests have even donated land themselves.
Celso Israel, 6 years old, in the village of Chitulul. His family consists of eight people. Celso is worst affected by his malnutrition but all of his siblings are also chronic malnourished. In addition to tortillas, beans and vegetables, the family ration usually five eggs for three days. The dad works in periods on the local mono cultures. But the salary is never enough.
Pascual Lopez Pup, 6 years old, lives with her mother, father and younger sister in the village of La Cumbre, Cerro de Oro. Her father works as day laborer on various farms in the area, but the salary is never enough. Most of his small salary will be spent on alcohol.
Palm oil plantation outside Nuevo San Carlos, Retaluelu. Areas where palm oil monocultures are expanding, local farmers have been transformed from farmers to agricultural workers. Most employments are only temporary, and when farmers no longer produce for there own consumption they risk to no longer be able to provide for the needs of the family. Because of this, the familyís vulnerability and food insecurity increases.
Corn is drying in the village Chitulul. In recent years, periodic drought has wiped out many of the small farmers harvests. Besides that families loose important staple food, the price of corn on the local market rise. A disaster for families that already is living on the margins.
Ruth Tecun is 4 years old and lives with six siblings, mother and father in the village of San Gregorio. The family rents a piece of land, but they hope to one day own their own land to become self-sufficient farmers.
Trinidad AndrÈs Vargas, seven years old. She lives in the village of Agua Escondida, San Antonio along with her mother, father and seven brothers and sisters. According to the mother Trinidad has always been malnourished. Her parents has work three days a week during the coffee harvest in December and January. They earn around 3 USD per day. During rest of the year, the father are a day laborer looking for temporary work on local farms. During coffee season the family can eat beans, tortillas, herbs and can afford to eat one chicken a month. The rest of the year their diet consist of coffee and tortillas.
Clothes hanging out to dry in Salvador Xolwitz, Nuevo San Carlos.
Cartoon on tv in Salvador Xolwitz, Nuevo San Carlos. Since 2000 the proportion of chronically malnourished children has increased simultaneously with the growth of the Guatemalan economy. Little suggests that the widespread malnutrition and unequal distribution of wealth in the next few years will be improved. Rather the opposite.
Wilder Benjamin, 3 years old, lives in the village of San Juan, El Mirador with his brother, mother and father. The father works as a day laborer on local farms.
Erica Coc Guahan in San Pablo de Laguna. She is three years old and weights around eight kilograms. But is slowly getting better. Her family eats beans, corn, herbs, tortillas and sometimes eggs. Her dad has temporary work on local farms, but the salary is never enough.
Machete, ball and a basket of black beans in the village Nuevo San Carlos.
Tapestries in San Pablo de Laguna.
Five years old Maria TiÒu Kinus father has work some five months a year. In the village where they live, Nuevo Provendencia, residents have with help from the Church bought land from a large farm. Even so, nearly 70 percent of the village's children are still chronically malnourished. Local peasant organizations educate villagers to become self-sufficient, in this transition from day laborers to small independent farmers.
Elmer Diaz Bixcul, 4 years, in the village of San Gregorio. He has six siblings, mother and father. Beside himself, three of his siblings are chronically malnourished. His parentís lives on whatever day to day jobs that are available.
Sugarcane plantation outside San Antonio, Masatenango. During harvest in October to Mars, some 350 000 men from all over the Guatemalan country side migrates for work on the fields. Sugar are Guatemalaís most important agricultural export. A worker earns around 7 USD per day, 200 USD per month and 1 200 USD during the six month harvest season. This is money that are suppose to cover the families needs during the rest of the year without work.
Development curve for infants in Agua Escondida, San Antonio.