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EC pledges £1.2 million to help Guatemala cope with severe drought

The European commission has pledged £1.2 million to help Guatemala cope with severe drought. The situation in the central American country’s “dry corridor” has become critical. The region is suffering from a harsh drought caused by the El Nino, a climate pattern responsible for extreme weather in many parts of the world. Neighbouring countries have faced similar issues, but Guatemala has the worst shortage in the region.

Guatemala’s drought has led to the loss of 70 per cent of the harvest in certain parts of the country, which borders Honduras and Salvador. As many as 54,000 families living in the corridor do not have access to enough food.The European Commission on Friday announced it had allocated €1.325 to help those most affected. The funds will be channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department with projects run by aid organisations.

“Central America, especially Guatemala, has been particularly hard hit by El Nino this season. Thanks to our presence in Nicaragua, we have been able to quickly appraise the situation in the region and to rapidly intervene to assist the most vulnerable. This funding will enable the 20,000 beneficiaries to survive the period between the depletion of their reserves and the next harvest” explained Karel De Gucht, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.

The funding will be used to help buy food, improve of water supplies and stocks, and to keep check on food security. Food-for-work programmes will also see some of the funding. About 20,000 of the most vulnerable people in the region, whose survival is threatened by the famine, will benefit from this aid. Food availability in the area has been shaky over the past few months and the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department is closely monitoring the situation. It says food stocks for the people in the region will run out this month. The next harvest will not be gathered until May or June. Some 2.5 million Guatemalans have been affected by the drought, the worst to hit the Central American country in 30 years, with hundreds of thousands, including many pregnant women and children, facing severe hunger, the United Nations said.

Guatemalans live in one of the most unequal societies in central America. Poverty is particularly bad in the countryside. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common with many of its neighbours, the country is plagued by organised crime and violent street gangs.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children