November 2, 2007

Something to Think About

With only five months left of service, I find myself trying to understand the situation Guatemala is in and what my future role can be. There is a strange feeling in knowing that I will someday leave and go back to a fairly comfortable lifestyle. I often feel guilty and at times very excited. It's a difficult balance. After living in Salacuim for nearly 2 years, I truly feel concerned for the people of my community and wonder what their future holds.

Currently Guatemala has the highest percentage of people living below the poverty rate in all of Central America at 56.2%. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1 a day and moderate poverty is less than $2 a day.

Here are some interesting comparisons between Guatemala and the U.S.

Guatemala/United States
Illiteracy rate: 30.9%/1%
Infant Mortality rate: 29.7 of 1,000/6.27 of 1,000
Fertility rate: 3.7 per woman/2.09 per woman
HIV prevalence: 1.1%/0.6%
Population below poverty level: 56.2%/12%
Age structure: 1-14(40.8%) 15-64(55.5%) 65+(3.6%)/
1-14(20.2%) 15-64(67.2%) 65+(12.6)

Other Guatemalan Facts...

Average duration of schooling is only 4 years
Only 3 of 10 children graduate from 6th grade
More than 2 million children do not attend school
(mostly indigenous girls in rural areas)
Infant mortality rate is the highest in Central America and the 3rd highest in the hemisphere
50% of Guatemalan women have given birth before the age of 19
20% have 2 or more children by their 18th birthday
Contraceptive prevalence is 43%, the 2nd lowest in the hemisphere
49% of Guatemalan children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished
Only 41% of births are attended by a doctor or nurse, lowest in the hemisphere

information provided by,

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