Guatemala faces huge food shortages and high malnutrition rates

By September 15, 2009

Guatemala (MNN) — Guatemala's President, Alvaro Colom, declared a 'state of calamity' last week, hoping to get international assistance to help some 54,000 families who are at high risk because of a regional food shortage.

Food is short, and the number of children
undernourished is sky-rocketing. Where? It is not a remote village over in
Africa. Rather, it is a short three-hour plane ride away from Dallas, Texas. It
is the country of Guatemala with a westernized society, which recently placed
third on the UN's list of countries in deepest poverty.

Tiffany Taylor with Orphan Outreach spoke with several
people ministrying in the country, and she explained: "This is a problem that
has just been there for years and years, and it's really been growing. And now the
U.N. has come in and said that this is a serious, life-threatening problem."

Since the beginning of the year, at least 25 children have
died of malnutrition, and hundreds more are in the hospitals. Taylor said it is
the indigenous people who are suffering the worst as a staggering 61 percent of
children under five are malnourished.

Taylor said, while the global economic state is an obvious
factor in this crisis, other factors within Guatemala have put certain areas at
a greater disadvantage. These factors include water shortage and poor soil in
certain regions, creating greater food shortages and less nutritious food.

With the food shortages, many children across the country
receive their only meals of the day when they attend a Christian school. Also,
because parents are unable to provide nutrition for their children, many have
been forced to place their children in orphanages, tearing their family apart.

Now Orphan Outreach has stepped in to do what they
can to help during this plight. They provide financial support to public and
private orphanages, ensure children are getting the most nutritious meals they
can at school, and provide medical teams to establish medical records for
many of the country's children.

"We need to make sure that humanitarian responses are for
the short-term, as well as the long-term," Taylor said.

In addition to these responses, one of Orphan Outreach's
primary focuses is supporting the local churches in Guatemala.

"We want to partner with these local churches and let them be
able to be a resource for these people. So when they are desperate–when they
feel that they cannot feed their families, when they're making a choice of whether or not to put a child in the orphanage–they can turn to the local
church and keep families together. And the local church can be there to tell
them why they are doing all of this and explain to them about the love of
Jesus, the love of God. It's a huge open door for the Gospel in Guatemala,"
Taylor said.

Though so many are suffering in the area, Christ's
love is still being shown, and God can use this time to draw people to Himself.

Taylor asked for prayer for the children in Guatemala and
Orphan Outreach's staff during this challenging time.

Pray for the Christian schools who not only provide education for
these children but are often their only source of food. Pray for God to
provide financially for Orphan Outreach so they can continue the work God has
called them to do.

Also, consider becoming involved in their ministry in
Guatemala. In October, several Mission Network News staff will be traveling to
Guatemala. Taylor said Orphan Outreach is also taking a trip in January, and
they still need people to come.

For more information about the trips or how you can help
Orphan Outreach financially, visit their Web site.

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