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Save the Children opened its offices in Guatemala in 1999, three years after the Peace Accords were signed, ending 36 years of a brutal civil war. Since that time, Save the Children has been helping poor populations to overcome the impact of that civil conflict through integrated programming in education, health, nutrition, asset growth and protection, livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, natural resource management and democracy and governance. By targeting its resources on development programming for rural, poor, and indigenous populations in three departments of the western highlands of Guatemala – Quiché, Huehuetenango, and Sololá - Save the Children is providing children and their families with the skills, knowledge, tools, and opportunities they need in order to lead more healthy, informed, and productive lives.
When disaster strikes, as happened with Hurricanes Mitch and Stan, Save the Children responds immediately to provide disaster affected children and their families with essential food and non-food items, safe spaces, medical attention, education and livelihood support services they need in order reestablish their lives quickly.
Guatemala has highest rate of chronic malnutrition in children under five in all of Latin America. While the national under five chronic malnutrition rate lies at approximately 49%, rates in Save the Children target areas reach as high as 78%. These rates are alarming considering that chronic malnutrition is highest among indigenous populations, as is linked to stunted physical and mental development, contributes to poor educational outcomes, and limits income generation potential due to illness and decreased intellectual capacity. In rural Guatemala, many children (particularly girls) do not complete their basic education, speak only their native Mayan language, and grow up functionally illiterate. Adolescent females marry as young as 12 years of age and have an average of seven children. All of these factors serve to reinforce the vicious cycle of poverty unless investments are made in children at a very early age.
Save the Children works alongside community and national stakeholders to increase access to quality early child development and bilingual, multicultural education across almost 80 communities in the Departments of Quiche, Huehuetenango and Sololá. Save the Children promotes early childhood development training for parents and activities for teachers, targeted school health and nutrition strategies for creating healthier learning environments, child sponsorship, youth financial literacy, and the promotion of learner-centered teaching methodologies that ease children's transitions to formal education while celebrating their cultural heritage and individual learning styles. Working at the preschool, primary school and secondary school levels, Save the Children works with parents, teachers, and community leaders to build their capacities to actively support their children's and student's educational achievement and to promote regular school attendance and completion. In 2008, Save the Children benefited an estimated 25,000 children and 15,000 parents, teachers, and community leaders, in largely coffee growing areas, with its education promotion activities in Guatemala.
Our staff is trained how to protect children during emergencies, how to quickly organize and operate Child Friendly Spaces and temporary schools in emergencies, as well as emergency distribution with the goal of returning children and their families to normalcy as quickly and smoothly as possible. The Country Office has a variety of pre-positioned supplies and resources available to facilitate a quick response. As with its response to Hurricane Stan (2005), Save the Children worked with the most affected communities in the Lake Atitlán area of the Department of Sololá to recover their lives and to invest in the futures of their children.
Save the Children's Disaster Risk Reduction and Response strategy forms an integral part of its livelihood programming. As part of this strategy, Save the Children staff lead community members through a process whereby they assess their current and future risk of disaster, develop community emergency response action plans and implement mitigation measures for possible disaster scenarios. Save the Children collaborates with local and national stakeholders to strengthen community capacity and mobilize around collective decision making.
In Guatemala, Save the Children will continue to target the poorest of the indigenous communities focusing on improving rural access to high quality education, health, nutrition, and reproductive health services and information, the application of sustainable livelihood strategies, and the integration of child protection norms into community and government decision making. The Guatemala Country Office will continue to advance Save the Children’s Rewrite the Future agenda for increasing child access to education, Survive to Five campaign for increasing child survival rates, as well as replicating innovative program project models, including Community Case Management of Childhood Illnesses.
In Laguneta Polajá, a rural village in the Department of Huehuetenango in the western highlands of Guatemala, Save the Children supports the local school to help increase the enrollment of children from indigenous communities in quality pre-primary, primary and secondary schools.
Six-year-old Catarina is a student at the local school and is guided by her teacher, whom she calls "Seño Margarita." With support from Save the Children, Margarita learned how to set up learning centers where small groups of children learn basic reading, writing and math. When Catarina first came to school, she was a "very timid girl" says Margarita. "She didn't want to participate and spoke very little."Catarina quickly became enthusiastic about participating in the learning centers and gained enough confidence to participate in the classroom.
Catarina has become a leader in her class and because of her ability to lead was elected Pre-Primary President and now is a positive role model for other girls in her group.
Catarina says “Here I feel very happy to be in school. My classroom is very pretty. My friends are always happy because there are a lot of games. We plan and learn together. The teacher takes us outside to work. We play games and run and talk with other children. I also paint and draw with my friends. I like to make music on the drums and marimbas. I like it when everyone participates and that’s why I like to help everyone else.”
Guatemala Facts and Statistics
Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.
Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program
Last Updated October 2013