Compassion International Responds to Guatemalan Food Shortage

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (ASSIST News Service)—Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom earlier this week declared a national “state of calamity” around the nation’s food shortage. reports that President Colom declared the “state of calamity” because of food shortages in the country and said he’ll boost spending on programs to fight malnutrition.

“I am making a fervent call to all of the country’s sectors to contribute to confronting this grave problem,” Colom said in a televised address late Tuesday.

According to, Colom said inadequate rainfall and a slumping economy have contributed to the food shortage. He didn’t specify how much money he would allocate to ameliorating the crisis under emergency powers that allow him to redirect spending. said that food shortages have led to the hospitalization of about 1,200 children for malnutrition this year in the eastern district of Jalapa where the drought is most intense, according to a United Nations report.

In response, Compassion International is sending money from its Global Food Crisis Fund to aid the beleaguered nation.

“Even though Guatemala is a country with vast natural and cultural resources, 58 percent of its population lives in poverty (people who live with $2 a day) and 27 percent live in extreme poverty (people who live with $1 or less a day),” said Edouard Lassegue, vice president of Latin America and the Caribbean Region at Compassion International, the world’s largest Christian child development organization.

He added: “With the highest rate of malnutrition of any Latin American nation, Guatemala is desperate for increased food aid.”

A native of Haiti, Lassegue joined Compassion International in 1990 and currently oversees the organization’s more than 1,365 child development centers across Latin America and the Caribbean.

To address the nutritional needs of children in Guatemala, Compassion International is employing two tactics.

The first is an effort to provide immediate relief by directing additional funds to Compassion’s 141 child development centers across Guatemala that currently serve 30,623 children sponsored by Compassion donors.

Having already donated $250,000 from its Global Food Crisis Fund, Compassion is currently in the middle of a nine-month, $200,000 distribution project designed specifically to address malnutrition.

Compassion is also employing a strategy that seeks to create long-term relief by teaching a child and his or her parent agricultural techniques and providing them with the seeds, chickens, goats, cows, project gardens, etc., they need to become self-sustaining.

Mark Hanlon, senior vice president, Compassion International, USA, said: “The cycle of poverty has been a noose around the neck of Guatemalans for far too long. It is time to help children and their families break this devastating cycle.”

Hanlon leads the work of Compassion International in the United States and serves on Compassion International’s executive leadership team.

Under his leadership, the number of children being sponsored by U.S.-based donors has grown 249 percent—from some 176,000 to 616,000 children. Today, Compassion serves more than 1 million children around the world through its one-to-one child sponsorship program.

Wess Stafford, president and CEO, Compassion International, commented: “As Americans, we all can relate to making tough trade-offs in order to tighten our belts. But, imagine that you live on less than $2 a day. Imagine if your food budget is not 15 percent of your income, but 75 percent of your income.”

He continued: “Imagine that inflation in your country has risen as much as 300 percent for necessary food like rice, oil, flour and sugar in the past year. For far too many people in the world’s poorest regions, they don’t have to imagine.”

Compassion International is the world’s largest Christian child development organization that permanently releases children from poverty.

Founded in 1952, Compassion successfully tackles global poverty one child at a time, serving more than 1 million children in 26 of the world’s poorest countries.

Compassion first opened Central American and Caribbean child development centers in 1968 in Haiti. Since then, six more countries have been added to the effort. More than 250,000 children are currently being served.

Compassion International began its work in Guatemala in 1976.

Recognizing that poverty is more than a lack of money, Compassion works through local churches to holistically address the individual physical, economic, educational and spiritual needs of children, enabling them to thrive, not just survive.

Compassion has been awarded eight consecutive, four-star ratings by Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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James P. Long
James P. Long

James P. Long is the editor of Outreach magazine and is the author of a number of books, including Why Is God Silent When We Need Him the Most?