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Guatemala Congress Signs Commitment To Fight Chronic Malnutrition

GUATEMALA CITY – The President of the National Congress, Oscar Stuardo Chinchilla, members of Congress, and the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, today signed a commitment to end the scourge of chronic malnutrition or stunting, which currently affects almost half of Guatemalan children and deprives the country of important human capital.

The purpose of this commitment is to start a dialogue with the Government of the Republic and approve by the end of 2017 a long-term political agreement to reduce current chronic undernutrition rates at least by half by 2030. This political agreement will ensure budget support, clear objectives and goals, and activities that will provide stability and sustainability to the efforts implemented by the State.

The WFP Executive Director saw for himself the situation on the ground as part of a three-day visit to Guatemala. Beasley met indigenous women and small children who received special nutritious food after a medical check-up to help eradicate chronic undernutrition. He saw a group of mothers trained on health and nutrition practices teaching other mothers how to prepare nutritious food to their children in their Kakchiquel language. “We were in the community of Xeabaj in Santa Apolonia, where we saw activities to promote better infant and young child nutrition, but these efforts must be intensified,” said Beasley.

The Strategic Review of Food and Nutrition Security Situation in Guatemala, prepared by the Research and Social Studies Association (a local think tank) with the support of WFP, highlighted the importance of addressing chronic malnutrition and its root causes if Guatemala is to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 2 - Zero Hunger. The report revealed that the people most vulnerable to food insecurity live in the regions of the North, Southwest and Northwest. These areas are rural and are mainly home to indigenous groups.

Party leaders and the chairpersons of the committees of food security, agriculture, finance, transparency and health also signed the agreement, which prioritizes the strengthening of existing actions, and promotes the involvement of key actors in the fight against hunger.

Guatemala has the highest stunting rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a prevalence of 46.5 percent among children under five. The fight against chronic malnutrition is a priority for the government. Adequate nutrition for the mother during pregnancy and for her child during the first two years of life is essential for the youngster’s body and brain to develop fully.

WFP, working closely with the Government of Guatemala, works to ensusre good nutrition for children during the first 1,000 days so they can realize their full potential.

Another key factor affecting food and nutritional security in Guatemalans is the impact of climate change, specifically in the Dry Corridor. The three years of drought has forced many communities deep into hunger, especially those in remote areas

“It is urgent to establish specific and sustainable actions that will continue over time irrespective of changes of power at local or national level. For this, there must be active involvement of government institutions, civil society and the private sector,” said WFP Representative in Guatemala, Mario Touchette.

The Commitment against Chronic Malnutrition in Guatemala aims to bring together the efforts of the government, the civil society and the private sector to support those affected by food insecurity and to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

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For more information please contact (email address:
Alejandro López-Chicheri, WFP/Latin America and the Caribbean, Mob. +507 6671 5355
Jane Howard, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 65132321, Mob. +39 346 7600521
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.  +44 20 72409001, Mob.  +44 7968 008474
Gerald Bourke, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob.  +1-646 525 9982