Telling the story of Jessica, a six-year-old girl in Guatemala with cerebal palsy who weighs just 16 pounds, proved to be a more emotional and difficult experience that expected.
Launching his reporting project, The Culture that Crawls, Alex Rozier profiles four individuals in Guatemala who know first-hand the plight of the disabled.
Eleven years ago Dick Rutgers went to Guatemala on a wheelchair distribution and never left. On this day, he focuses his attention on Jessica, a six-year-old girl suffering from cerebral palsy who weighs just 16 pounds.
The two-day trek to El Mirador and the three-day stay was our introduction as a group to Petén, Guatemala.
Photos by David M. Barreda
More than two million Guatemalans live in extreme poverty, and nearly half of the children in Guatemala are malnourished. In some areas, nearly every child is affected.
Most suffer from chronic malnutrition, which means that while they are getting enough calories, the food they eat is severely lacking in vitamins and protein.
As Samuel Loewenberg reports, this poor nutrition affects not only their bodies, but their future.
Last month, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a “state of calamity” as Guatemala experiences the worst drought in 70 years. Approximately half of the population lives below the poverty line and 50 percent of children are suffering from chronic malnutrition. But these are only the surface casualties of a vulnerable nation ravaged by 36 years of civil war, genocide and now, the encroaching drug war spilling over from the northern border with Mexico.
For some of the farmers and ranchers, just getting to the meeting in the capital of the state of Petén, Guatemala, was an ordeal. Scores of them were irritable from having traveled days – first over muddy foot trails, then by pickup truck and minibus on rutted, unpaved roads – to attend a workshop with park rangers. The residents had journeyed in the hope of slowing the government's plan to crack down on illegal land grabs, which for more than a decade had chipped away at the vast but vulnerable Maya Forest – and which were the basis of the farmers' livelihood.
Political will is scarcer than food.
In a country plagued by chronic malnutrition, government solutions keep coming up short. The real problem: poverty and income inequality.
Samuel Loewenberg narrates images from Guatemala's malnutrition clinics.
Although most of Guatemala's children have enough food to eat, many are not receiving the right kind of food. Samuel Loewenberg reports on the country's growing crisis of chronic malnutrition.
In the clean, toy-filled interior of a clinic in Chiquimula, a 9-year-old girl appears to be frowning. Her name is Domitila, and her muscles are too weak to form a smile (see webvideo). Her body is fragile: arms and legs wasted, patches of hair missing, the veins in her legs forming a black web-like pattern that shows through her delicate skin.