Guatemala, bordered by Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize, boasts unique biodiversity including the largest contiguous forest in Mesoamerica, and a diverse cultural heritage that includes 25 sociolinguistic groups (22 Mayan, Spanish, Xinca, and Garífuna).
With nearly 15 million people, Guatemala has the largest population in Central America. At 2.8% a year, the country’s population growth rate surpasses its Latin American neighbors and results in a doubling of the population approximately every 25 years. Although Guatemala is a lower middle income country, it has one of the most unequal income distributions in the hemisphere; an estimated 51% of people live in poverty, and one of every two children under the age of five are chronically malnourished. Most of Guatemala’s poor are rural indigenous people of Maya descent who have a long history of discrimination and exclusion from full economic, political, and social participation. The rural indigenous were the most seriously affected by the 36-year armed conflict (1960-1996) that claimed more lives than the conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and Argentina combined.
Since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, Guatemalan society has made significant progress towards becoming more equitable. For instance, the gender gap in primary education has all but closed, more people have access to primary health care services, the private sector is opening to social development, and natural resource management has improved significantly in protected areas. The country has rich natural resources, strong management talent, a large, young labor force capable of producing high-quality products, and favorable access and increasing ability to capitalize on U.S. and Central American markets.
USAID partners with Guatemala’s public sector institutions, civil society, private sector leaders, faith-based organizations, and other international donors to foster sustainable development, particularly in critical areas such as poverty and chronic malnutrition, security and justice, and natural resource management. Please see Dollars to Results for details.
Last updated: August 29, 2014