"The name Mil Milagros is the right name for the program because that is exactly what they are producing -- many miracles in the education, health and nutrition of our boys and girls."
~Mil Milagros teacher
Historical Context of Guatemala
The effects of the civil war that lasted nearly four decades (1960-1996) continue to be felt today. The war, which resulted in 200,000 deaths and many more displaced persons, was triggered primarily by the fear of “mounting communist influence” and guerrilla movements that were active in rural areas throughout the region. All of Guatemala suffered, but the greatest impact was felt in the Highlands region, which was and still is predominantly Mayan.
“…In parts of rural Guatemala, where the population is overwhelmingly of Mayan descent, the incidence of child malnutrition reaches 80%. A diet of little more than tortillas does permanent damage. This chronic problem has become acute. Many families can scarcely afford beans, an important source of protein, and must sell eggs from their hens rather than feed them to their children…” ~ article, The Economist
“Many families can scarcely afford beans, an important source of protein, and must sell eggs from their hens rather than feed them to their children…” ~Economist Article
Starvation and malnutrition
One of the major factors contributing to the high rates of malnutrition is the lack of clean water and sanitation systems in most rural areas in Guatemala. Many families have very limited access to an adequate diet due to a lack of education and other economic and environmental limitations. Malnutrition is often a product of the condition of being “food insecure”; families, particularly those who have found themselves in a chronic state of economic hardship, have limited ability to produce or purchase sufficient amounts of food. In rural areas where a majority of the population is dedicated to agricultural activities, families’ incomes may vary substantially due to price fluctuations of basic food staples on the global market. At the same time, any basic minimum wage they may receive covers only about 75% of the basic food basket, making it nearly impossible for these families to afford sufficient food. Moreover, simple environmental factors such as drought often damage the livelihoods of families living in vulnerable areas and whose well-being depends primarily on the seasonal harvest of crops. Natural disasters that occur in Guatemala include hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and frosts. In 2010, Tropical Storm Agatha left behind severe damage throughout the country, affecting communications, infrastructure, food security and livelihoods.
Effects of childhood malnutrition
“The effects of malnutrition on child development are like a ‘life sentence’ because it compromises (children’s) health, their ability to learn, and their growth.” ~UNICEF
Ironically, the Latin American region produces three times the amount of food needed to feed its population. “Any program that can effectively reduce the levels of under-nutrition will not only improve the quality of life of those affected, but will also increase productivity,” according to Jose Luis Machiena, CEPAL Secretary General.
School Drop-Out Rates
The goal of Mil Milagros, Inc.™ is to ensure that all children in Guatemala graduate from sixth grade healthy, literate and prepared to continue their education. USAID reports that only 30% of children complete sixth grade. Guatemala has the sixth highest rate of child malnutrition in the world; fifty percent of the children are malnourished. In some Mayan communities, the rate of malnutrition exceeds 90%.