Guatemala | ActionAid UK

Guatemala

ActionAid began working in Guatemala in 1996, at the end of a three-decade civil war. Locally trained staff and partners help indigenous people access essential services, such as health and education. We also support communities to grow food and earn a living, and support women to protect themselves from violence and increase their role and influence in society.

Why we work in Guatemala

More than half of people in Guatemala live below the poverty line. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the Americas. Life expectancy is among the lowest.

Guatemala is still recovering from a 36 year-long civil war between government and rebel forces, which ended in 1996. The conflict left more than 200,000 people dead and created an estimated one million refugees.

Women are especially vulnerable to violence, which has sharply increased in recent years. Only 13% of seats in parliament are held by women and women are far less likely to own land than men.

GT
  • 50
    Nearly half of Guatemala’s children under five are chronically malnourished.
  • 30
    31.7% of the population are illiterate.
  • 50
    Almost 50% of women in Guatemala have experienced violence from their partner.

As Guatemala recovers from the destruction of schools during the civil war, the number of people who can read is increasing. However, while government-run schools are free to attend, ‘hidden’ costs like uniforms, books and transport mean that education is often unaffordable for the poorest families

Perched on three tectonic plates, Guatemala is also subject to frequent earthquakes of varying intensity. Tropical storms regularly wreck fishing villages on the Caribbean coast and active volcanos threaten remote communities.

 

Women in Guatemala building beehives

Honey producers Petronila Santiago and Amerida Cruz sharing their delicious honey with their families in San Carlos Alzatate, Guatemala

Photo: César López/ActionAid

What we do in Guatemala

Tackling hunger 

Nearly half of Guatemala’s children under the age of five are chronically malnourished; one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. By providing emergency food aid, training communities on health and nutrition, supporting school gardening projects and helping communities to improve food production, ActionAid is working to beat hunger.

To keep the land they rely on, we also support communities battling land grabs from large multi-national companies.

Helping women deal with violence

In the north of Guatemala, levels of violence against women are extremely high. Between 2000 and 2013 over 4,000 women were killed at the hands of their partners or family.

The northern state of Petén is now one of the most dangerous places for women in the whole of Central America. By running workshops to teach women about the laws in place to protect them and how to report acts of violence safely, we’re helping women fight violence in their daily lives.  

With ActionAid training, women are also learning how to earn a wage outside of their houses and patriarchal attitudes are changing.

Education for children and women

In rural Guatemala, there are few schools above primary level. To help overcome this, ActionAid has created a distance learning programme. The students listen to their classes on the radio and meet with a teacher three times a week. 

Where schools are ill-equipped, ActionAid supports them with funding for libraries and materials such as whiteboards, markers, crayons, pencils, notebooks, paper, printers and pots and sinks for school kitchens.

For women who missed out on an education when they were younger, ActionAid provides literacy classes, arranged around childcare and household chores.

Improving resilience to disasters

ActionAid runs disaster workshops which help prepare communities for droughts, earthquakes, floods, forest fires and landslides. Here people can learn about the measures they should take to protect themselves and their families, for example, identifying a safe place to take shelter. Children draw maps of their communities marked with the areas of risk – such as rivers and forests – and areas that are safe for evacuation.

How we change lives for good in Guatemala

Read stories of women we’ve helped.

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Footnotes

Photo: Greg Funnell/ActionAid