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Healing Guatemala: Struggling to feed starving families during pandemic

People of all ages have taken to the streets of a remote village outside Chuisajcaba, Guatemala. Many of them holding white flags that match the ones hanging outside of their homes. “Help,” these flags cry wordlessly. “We have no food.” Chuisajcaba - a town where most of its citizens exist in poverty, have helplessly watch their already dire situation become exacerbated by the restrictions enacted during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions there are not good and quickly getting worse, largely because of strict government measures that impact poor families.

There is a 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew, borders and nonessential businesses are closed, and almost everything is locked down countrywide for almost eight weeks. The poor people do not have any cash cushion.

Many are on the verge of starvation.

Until April, we could manage to at least get some food to eat. But now, the situation is dire. Families have taken to hanging the white flags on their houses, a symbol that means they need help, especially with food.

Each batch of food contains 50,000 pounds of corn and 15,000 pounds of beans. With that, we can serve 1,500 families for roughly 15 days. Each family receives 30 pounds of corn and 10 pounds of beans.

We have delivered one batch already and had already purchased the second batch. We hope four batches total will get the people through their toughest spot.

The health and economic crisis is hitting the “least of these” in Guatemala very hard. The jobs have also dried up and the poor have little, if any, emergency funds. The Guatemalan government has a program to support the poor with food and money, but the amounts are small and many times do not reach those in need. The families have run out of their supplies from last year’s harvest, and it will be a few more months until the current crop is ready to be picked.

The 1,500 families include 200 families in the remote village of Chuisajcaba, where previously a feeding ministry for schoolchildren had been established; about 400 families served by their partner local pastors and missionaries in the Xela surroundings; and 900 Olintepeque families in the vicinity of their Bethesda Medical Center.

The grain bundles that we are providing are not a fancy food, nor even grocery. Those are their basic foods for survival. We are just handing out the basic raw grains for them to cook at home to keep their families from suffering from hunger. Literally, these grains sustain the life of those living on the edge.

Poor families typically eat tortillas with salt when they are short on food. Often they have a late breakfast and early dinner, then go to bed early.

I cannot imagine how painful it is for these parents to watch their children going to bed with hungry stomachs, “Lord, have mercy on them.”