A YEAR IN
A L A GUATEM 09 SUMMARY REPORT
GOOD REASONS why Plan works in Guatemala
San Pedro Carchá
Salamá Chixoy Quetzaltenango
Puerto Barrios Polochic Jalapa
GUATEMALA Country Office Programme Unit Le
• Physical abuse, mistreatment and neglect are widespread Coco
Our priorities in Guatemala • Working to improve healthcare, sanitation and education, and increase incomes so that families can meet their basic needs alpa g
• Promoting children’s rights and child protection • Helping families and communities affected by emergencies Lago de and Nicaragua natural disasters to rebuild their lives
e Sa Rio oF Arag das ran uaia Mo rte Aracigsco s uai
Mothers attend a child nutrition workshop.
“Malnutrition is the second most common cause of death in under-fives, but it is hidden, since the most visible cause is diarrhoea or respiratory infections.” PANAMA
Capital: Guatemala City
Climate: The three distinct geographical regions of Guatemala: the highlands; the Pacific coast south of the mountains; and the Petén region, north of the mountains vary in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts
Economy: Guatemala’s GDP per capita is US$5,000; however, this developing country still faces many social problems and is among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with approximately 29% of the population living below the poverty line.
“Plan works with over 600 communities, improving the quality of life of 340,000 families, promoting child participation and strengthening democracy at community and municipal levels, all to provide children with opportunities to reach their full potential.” o
Language: Spanish, various indigenous languages
Population: 12.7 million
between hot and humid tropical lowlands and colder and drier highland peaks.
• Primary education is poor quality, and only a quarter of children attend secondary school
Gra • Supporting communities to manage their own development and getting children involved in decisions that affect their lives
• 61% of Guatemala’s children live in poverty
– Ricardo Gómez Agnoli, Plan’s Country Director
A YEAR IN
GUATEMALA SUMMARY REPORT
FOCUS ON: HEALTHCARE, SANITATION AND NUTRITION
Plan aims to strengthen basic community health services, promote healthy lifestyles and raise awareness of HIV amongst young people. In rural areas, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation are major causes of disease. We work with local people to ensure they have access to clean water, and improve sanitation and hygiene in schools and communities. We also focus on nutrition, by helping families to increase their incomes so that they can provide enough food for their children, and providing training on nutrition and food hygiene to reduce malnutrition and diarrhoea.
WORKING TOGETHER TO FIGHT MALNUTRITION
n August 2007, four-year-old Amilsa was found in her home motionless and showing all the symptoms of malnutrition. A mother checks a child as part of a child nutrition workshop.
The Bigger Picture
Plan is working with children, families and whole communities to address the problems that Guatemala faces. This report can only tell a small part of that story. As a further insight, last year we also: • Enabled young people to take part in decisions affecting their lives through 150 Child-Youth Community Development Councils • Improved educational quality through training and support for 350 nurseries and 350 primary schools • Enabled 3,158 people (67% of them women) to increase their incomes by taking part in village savings and loans schemes • Plan’s national child protection strategy is being considered by government institutions as a solid approach for use throughout Guatemala. • In December 2008 Plan was granted the “Orden del Quetzal” Guatemala’s highest award for our work developing children’s, adolescents and youth projects in marginalised regions over the past 30 years. Your support as a sponsor is crucial to achieving these positive results. So on behalf of the communities, partner organisations, and most of all the children we work with – thank you!
Her illness initiated a project which has grown from addressing immediate food needs to improving nutrition and hygiene in 20 communities, and which has brought women together to tackle longer term issues. Amilsa lives in Los Amates, eastern Guatemala. She is one of 14 children of whom eight survive; her 13-year-old sister died of severe malnutrition. Her parents struggle to meet their children’s basic needs, living on an income of £2 a day from farm work. Many other families in Los Amates are in a similar situation. Amilsa’s case led Plan’s Health Co-ordinator Juanita Milián to carry out a survey which found that 109 children in 20 communities were suffering from acute malnutrition. Plan alerted the Ministry of Health, and a nutritional emergency was declared in Los Amates. “Malnutrition is the second most common cause of death in under-fives,” says Juanita, “but it is hidden, since the most visible cause is diarrhoea or respiratory infections.” (Malnutrition weakens the body’s ability to fend off both.) Food assistance was the priority. Plan distributed supplementary food, and the 18 most serious cases were taken to nutritional recovery centres. But to prevent the same situation happening again, it was crucial to encourage families to change their habits. Helping communities to improve their health As well as nutrition, hygiene was a huge problem. Many communities had streets littered with rubbish, no latrines, and animals feeding, living and defecating in the same spaces as families. Most people had no means to treat water, a major source of contamination and disease. As their contribution to the project, families agreed to improve hygiene in their homes and communities, attend training on nutrition, and take part in growth monitoring and immunisation.
Plan monitored changes in cleanliness of food preparation, water use, and hygiene, and the Ministry of Health provided training and carried out growth monitoring. Families were keen to get involved. “The response from the communities has been very positive,” says Juanita. “We have been able to see things improving little by little. People have shown a lot of interest in improving their lifestyle.” By January 2008, children’s height and weight measurements had improved, and cases of childhood diarrhoea had fallen by 38%. The Ministry of Agriculture, Cattle and Food took over providing supplementary food for several months more, and Plan began to focus on the longer term. For families and communities to be more secure in the future, they urgently need to increase their incomes, and Plan will help with this. However, it won’t be easy, as Juanita explains: “These communities are very isolated, with no public transportation and difficult roads. The land is not fertile and not good for vegetables and fruits.” Working together Difficult situations can bring communities together and help them learn about themselves and their capacities for organisation and management. This project has provided the motivation for a group of women from Los Amates to move beyond nutrition and hygiene. They are planning projects, such as vegetable gardens and village banks, that will increase their incomes. Plan will continue to provide advice and support. These women have taken a huge step in finding the strength to move beyond the extreme poverty in which they live, and build a better life for their children. Thirty-five-year-old Blanca, a mother of six, sums up their hopes for the future: “We want projects that help us improve our families and children. Now that we are organised and committed to working together, it will surely be much easier.”
To learn more about Plan’s work in Guatemala visit plan.org.au/ourwork/southernamerica/guatemala
Produced for Guatemalar by the Australian National Office.
Published on Aug 27, 2009