Drought-Stricken Guatemala Pleads For Aid

By Dialogo
September 14, 2009

Guatemala called on the international community to stump up 110 million dollars to help battle a famine and drought that has struck the Central American nation. A government statement said the money was needed to buy food for the estimated 410,000 families who have been affected. Guatemala's President Alvaro Colom has declared the situation -- which has claimed 460 lives since the start of the year -- a "public calamity." Most of the deaths occurred in the impoverished northern section of Guatemala bordering Mexico, where more than half of the region's 13 million inhabitants subsist below the poverty line. Key crops like corn and beans have been decimated by the drought, leading to a spike in malnutrition rates. The drought is also being felt in neighboring Mexico, where the country's water commission last month warned of a "critical" water shortage that was likely to reach crisis levels by next year. Mexico's Cutzamala reservoir, which supplies the capital's urban sprawl, is at record low levels, as are other public and private sources of water. The drought, the worst in 70 years, is said to be caused in part by the "El Nino" seasonal warming phenomenon.