World Food Program issues call for assistance
to help poor suffering from drought
U.S. Water News Online
JOCOTAN, Guatemala -- The U.N. World Food Program is
calling on the international community to help feed thousands of
Guatemalans suffering from hunger and malnutrition following a four
month drought in Central America.
The World Food Program estimates that 65,000 people across
Guatemala are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition after the
drought wiped out corn, coffee, and bean harvests they depended on to
make ends meet. The lack of rain left more than 366,000 people
malnourished across Central America, the group reports.
During September alone, 15,900 more Guatemalan families began to
suffer from malnutrition while they waited for food to arrive, said
Celeste Bonilla, spokeswoman for the World Food Program's Guatemalan
Bonilla said a boat carrying 90 tons of cooking oil and more than
800 tons of corn has arrived in Guatemala City, but that this country
still needs more than 1,000 tons of basic foodstuffs to properly feed
those left starving in the drought's wake.
Napoleon Gutierrez said help may arrive too late to save his
6-year-old child, who was rushed by authorities to a nearby hospital
suffering from severe malnutrition.
``He was very weak,'' Gutierrez said.
The children authorities left behind weren't much better off.
Half-naked and covered with mud from their shack's dirt floor, five
children under the age of 10 stood around a small stove cooking five
tortillas that would serve as the family's dinner.
While official statistics are not available in Roblarcito de
Olopa, a hamlet near this country's mountain-dotted border with
Honduras, locals say a lack of food after the drought killed 94
people &endash; and that as many as eight in 10 of those victims were
Hospital officials say many children arrive to the hospital so
malnourished that simply feeding them won't save their lives.
``They are just too sick,'' said Yadira Escobar, a hospital
official in the Jocotan's Tatutu neighborhood, where hunger has
claimed 20 victims.
While hundreds of families in this region have slowly begun to
receive food donated by international aid groups, many here say they
will continue to suffer unless international coffee prices rebound.
``We want them to bring us other crops that fetch a better
price,'' Mansilla said, adding that coffee harvests that used to feed
his family for a year now only buy enough food for a few months.
``The aid is arriving ... but we don't want to go back to work for
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