Guatemala tackling malnutrition

The Guardian ran an article today about the Guatemalan government’s efforts to reduce malnutrition throughout the country. The zero-hunger plan is one of the centerpieces of the Pérez-Molina government trying to reduce Guatemala’s malnutrition which currently is the third worst in the world at 54%, according to the World Bank. The plan’s goal is to lower malnutrition by 10% by 2016. According to the article:

¨The government has won recognition from international development experts. Guatemala came first last year in the Hanci global hunger index that ranked 44 countries on their hunger and nutrition commitment. The zero-hunger plan was one of the reasons, along with substantial investment in health and having a separate nutrition budget line to make its spending accountable to all, for Guatemala’s top ranking

The Guardian reporter traveled to Pamamus in Chimaltenango on the day the Vice President was visiting the town. Chimaltenengo is a region that suffers acutely from malnutrition. She touches down in her helicopter (of course) and has this weird exchange:

¨She makes a beeline for the cutest children before working the crowd. At one point she asks: “Does your husband beat you? Because if he does, I want you to let me know.”¨

She has flown to Pamumus mainly to show her appreciation to the European Union for providing aid to Guatemala. Andris Piebalgs, EU development commissioner, is visiting the village as part of a Latin American tour.

Last week, the EU announced it would provide up to €775m (£653m) for bilateral assistance to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras between 2014-20, subject to approval by the European council of government leaders and the European parliament. Guatemala is expected to get €186m, which will be channelled through the government.

The reporter interviews a local woman, asking her about all the corn he sees around her. It is not theirs. The owners live down the mountain. This area saw some of the worst violence during the civil war and this problem the reporter sees gets at the root of that problem:

Guatemala has one of the world’s highest rates of land concentration, where 3% of private landowners occupy 65% of the arable land, producing coffee, sugar cane and bananas for export. Small farms (fewer than four hectares) occupy only 11% of agricultural land.¨

Not a surprise, in fact policy makers have known this was a problem for decades. It was the reason for the 1954 US-led coup here. Sadly, not much has changed.

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