Thursday, July 29, 2010

Climate extremes fuel hunger in Guatemala

Danilo Valladares in IPS: …[Tropical Storm] Agatha departed from Guatemala May 30, leaving behind 165 people dead and over 100,000 affected by destruction of their homes, crops or livelihoods. One month later, Alex added two more to the death toll and 2,000 to the number of material victims, according to the National Disaster Reduction Coordination agency (CONRED).

The storms also hit El Salvador and Honduras, where at least 29 people died and thousands were left homeless, according to disaster relief agencies. But the worst hit by the double whammy of the storms was Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where half the population live on incomes below the poverty line and 17 percent are extremely poor, according to United Nations statistics.

"Climate change is exacerbating the conditions of poverty and extreme poverty in the country, and above all is complicating the lives of the most vulnerable," Carlos Mancilla, head of the Climate Change Unit at the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (MARN), told IPS.

Flooding is not the only concern. Paradoxically, one of the main chronic problems in Guatemala is drought, in the "dry corridor" in the north and east of the country. "Adapting to drought is not as easy as coping with floods. How can the social fabric destroyed by a drought be repaired? What happens when the head of a family has to migrate?....”

...Sucely GirĂ³n, coordinator of the non-governmental Observatory on the Right to Food Security (ODSAN), told IPS that the country "is not investing in prevention," in spite of having passed a law on food and nutrition security….

Patchwork of cultivated fields on mountain slope in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, shot by the Pink Slip, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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