GUATEMALA CITY – The United Nations Children’s Fund reported last week that chronic malnutrition among Guatemalan children has reached “massive” proportions, with 49.3% of minors now suffering from the scourge.
UNICEF’s representative in Guatemala, Manuel Manrrique, said that because of a “huge rise in chronic malnutrition” the incidence of the condition in the Central American country is the highest in Latin America and surpasses the world average by more than 19 percentage points.
The situation is worse still among the Indian population, Manrrique said, since 69.5% suffer from chronic malnutrition, almost double the rate of 35.7% for nonindigenous children.
The figures are contained in a report entitled “Guatemalan Childhood in Figures,” which was drawn up by the UNICEF office with support from the U.N. Development Program and presented April 2.
The study, according to the coordinator of the National Human Development Report, Karin Slowing, describes the situation faced by Guatemalan children and adolescents and provides valuable information on demographics, nutrition, health, education, vulnerable populations, poverty, water and sanitation and child-related institutions.
Slowing said that the figures “give a general panorama of the critical situation affecting Guatemalan children” and added that – with the exception of the educational area, where “important advances” have been made – “there are still significant challenges.”
Half of Guatemala’s population of 13.3 million is under the age of 18 and, of that group, 63.9% lives in conditions of poverty and 19.2% under conditions of extreme poverty. Indigenous children, 82.4% of whose families are below the poverty line, make up the lowest socio-economic group.
The purpose of this statistical report, Manrrique said, is for “these figures to have a positive impact on the development of public policies aimed at improving social services and increasing the amount of people covered.”