Saturday, February 08, 2020

Guatamalan Exodus

The threat of famine and the battle for dwindling natural resources are increasingly being recognised as major factors in the exodus from Guatamala's rural districts in what is called the Dry Corridor,  a region which stretches through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

A drought and prolonged heatwaves linked to the climate emergency devastated crops across Guatemala 2019 was the driest year in a decade with only 65 days of rain. Guatemala’s subsistence farmers depend on rainfall – which is increasingly erratic – and most lack alternative sources of water.

As a result, record numbers of subsistence farming families are going hungry: health officials registered more than 15,300 cases of acute malnutrition in children under five last year – up nearly 24% from 2018. It’s the highest number of acute malnutrition cases since 2015, when a severe drought destroyed harvests across Central America. At least 33,000 children need urgent medical treatment due to acute malnutrition, according to Oxfam Guatemala. Around one million Guatemalans – 15% of the population – are currently unable to meet their daily food requirements, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

After an irregular rainy season and an unpromising harvest, almost 80%
of maize grown in Guatemala’s highland region was lost, according to Oxfam. 

Hunger is not a new phenomenon in Guatemala: at least 60% of the population live in poverty, hundreds of thousands rely on food aid, and almost 50% of children suffer stunted physical and cognitive development due to chronic malnourishment.

But experts warn that the additional burden of extreme weather is overwhelming these communities, which have been long ignored and repressed by the government. 

Now, drought, famine and the battle for dwindling natural resources are increasingly being recognized as major factors in the exodus. Marc-Andre Prost, a WFP regional nutrition adviser, told Reuters: “Climate change is not responsible for this situation but it’s definitely exacerbating a situation where people don’t have the capacity to cope.”
Central America is one of the world’s most dangerous regions outside a warzone, where a toxic mix of violence, poverty and corruption has forced millions to flee north in search of security. Amid the growing threat of famine, almost 265,000 Guatemalans migrants searching for work, safety and food security were detained at the US southern border in 2019 – a 130% increase on the previous fiscal year. Worsening hunger across the region is a factor in the rise in migrant caravans trying to reach the US overland. The caravans have been met with repression and hostility by Mexican and American authorities.

No comments: