Drought Bringing Growing Hunger to Guatemala

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It's known as the "dry corridor"- six provinces in Guatemala that are experiencing some of the worst drought conditions in nearly three decades.

Zotero Diaz is farmer who lives in Jutiapa, one the hardest hit provinces just east of the capital Guatemala City.

He says that a lack of rain, poor soil conditions and the global financial crisis, have forced him and his family to take drastic measures.

"We have thought about moving on to other jobs...the crops we have are not enough for the rest of the summer," Diaz said.

Diaz, like so many Guatemalans, has lost up to 80 percent of his crops due to bad weather.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom took the dramatic step this month to declare a hunger crisis.

"I have decided to declare a state of public calamity in all of the national territory," he said.  "Since the consequences of insufficient food and nutrition don't only affect the provinces of the dry corridor but the entire country."

The immediate concern are the thousands of families who live in this corridor.

The government is rushing to get staple foods like maize and beans to those that need them most.

"We estimate some 200,000 families could be affected by food security," said food security secretary Juan Aguilar.  "This could be equivalent to one million Guatemalans that would be affected by the chronic problem of annual food shortages."

Already, some 25 children have reportedly died of hunger this year. 

Sadly, the latest figures from the U.N. shows that almost half of Guatemala's children suffer chronic malnutrition.

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