Guatemala (MNN) — As drought has swallowed chunks of East Africa whole, the starvation of millions has been on the minds of many. The situation is dire and tragic. Due to the scale of the disaster, other cases of starvation and malnutrition are easily forgotten.
Malnutrition plays a part in more than half of all child deaths worldwide. Children and adults in Guatemala in particular are confronted with malnutrition on a daily basis.
"Guatemala is considered to have the fourth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world; actually it's the highest rate in Latin America," notes Cynthia Gunter with Orphan's Heart. "On average, about one out of two people in Guatemala are malnourished, but among the indigenous population, it's up to 80%."
The issue in Guatemala is different than what we've seen in East Africa. People are not necessarily starving, but they don't have the proper nourishment to survive well or for long.
"Malnutrition really isn't hunger. It's a different thing," explains Gunter. "People may be getting the proper calories–if they have tortillas one day or pasta one day. Malnutrition really is the greater problem, which means their diet is lacking in vitamins and much-needed protein. They just don't have that available to them."
An elite few in Guatemala are well taken care of, but most of the nation's workers who harvest fields and pick crops don't see any of that nourishing food in their diets. Many live on pennies a day. Their malnutrition is a direct result of their poverty.
Orphan's Heart has been working to combat this problem for the last three years. The ministry has a Malnutrition Center which is currently home to 79 children. There, malnourished kids are nursed back to health.
Most children just come from families who cannot afford to provide adequate nourishment. The children are taken into the center for a period until they are well again.
While in the center, kids receive crucial, often life-saving care, but they also hear a life-giving message.
"The neat thing about Orphan's Heart–since we're a Christ-centered organization–is that we not only bring the necessary physical help that's needed for these children, but we also are able to bring them the Gospel and to bring them the love of Christ," says Gunter.
The center is serving 79 kids in this way, but it has the space to serve 200 at a time. The only thing needed is the funding so more children can be helped.
For Americans, November means a season of Thanksgiving. For all believers, Christmas is coming soon. These holidays are joyful times often filled with abundance, but most in Guatemala will not even have the most basic need of nutrition met.
Consider partnering with Orphan's Heart this Thanksgiving or Christmas. More funds are needed to fill the beds of the Malnutrition Center.
"We hesitate to ask [for money] until we are able to bring people down to the center and show them. So we also ask for physical resources for people going with us," adds Gunter.
To learn more about taking a trip to Guatemala on your own or with a group, visit orphansheart.org.