Although Guatemala is not the poorest country in Latin America, malnutrition is a severe problem in the nation, as it is the country with the highest rate of malnutrition in the entire Western Hemisphere, and has the fourth highest rate in the world. The epidemic of malnutrition in Guatemala not only inhibits the development of each child, but also the development of the nation as a whole. Human survival at the most basic level requires few things: shelter, food, and clean water. Malnourished children are denied the basic rights to have nutritional food and clean water, and these innocent children are left to pay for the consequences of a greater poverty that is no fault of their own.
It has been reported that half of the population of children under ﬁve years of age in Guatemala is malnourished. (it is important to note that many Mayans do not even register their births so this number in effect may indeed be even higher). There are dozens of different indigenous groups, each with their own language and their own culture. It is these indigenous communities that suffer the highest poverty and malnutrition rates. In visiting Guatemala, the unequal distribution of wealth is obvious. Cities are full of businesses and development, and appear to be prosperous. However, in rural indigenous areas, the Mayans sleep on the ground, live in huts, and only eat what they produce themselves. This is partially due to the Guatemalan Civil War, lasting from 1960 to 1996, which targeted the Mayan people and left them outcasts of society.
There is hope for helping these children, as malnutrition can be overcome. Change can be attained by providing: parental education, health care and information & immediate nutritional intervention. In these things, we secure the right of every Guatemalan child to have the nutrients essentially needed to develop into a healthy and productive member of society.
Malnutrition is not only an effect of poverty, it perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Much research shows that children who are undernourished tend to suffer from learning difﬁculties and end up poorer. Proper feeding is the ﬁrst step in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Unlike Canada and the USA, there are no social programs to address this issue in Guatemala.
It is the goal of The Dig to address these issues directly through educational programs for the indigenous Mayan population of Guatemala focusing on health, nutrition and agriculture. By providing access to educational programs this will aid the indigenous people to learn not only what to do but how to do it. Introducing them ﬁrst to basic concepts of health and nutrition and then providing them education and practical ways to plant, raise and prepare foods to empower them become healthy and self-sustaining once more as their ancestors were.