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Transforming Lives

The Guatemalan government is 'building a better country' through reforms in top agencies.

Corruption is an endemic problem in Guatemala that has profoundly negative impacts on investment, governance and the legitimacy of democratic government. In addition to the direct losses caused by diversion of funds, corruption is used as an argument against paying taxes, impeding the generation of additional revenues. While the previous government was plagued by wholesale corruption, President Oscar Berger, who took office in January 2004, says he is determined to leave stronger government institutions for the administration that succeeds his in 2008.

A woman carries garbage to the local dump.

Open landfills are more than an affront to one’s senses. Improperly managed, they can also result in grave environmental consequences and create health problems for people living for miles around. Open landfills are one of the principal sources of methane, a highly flammable gas that is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. The Guatemala City dump emits such great quantities of methane gas that it literally catches fire several times a year — resulting in death and considerable destruction of land and property.

Mayan women and one husband receive family planning counseling at the health center in Chimaltenango, southern Guatemala. Men’s

For decades, studies have shown a high demand among Guatemalan couples for resources to help them make informed decisions and follow through on planning the number and spacing of their children. Yet, until five years ago, information on reproductive health and family planning was very difficult to find in Guatemala, particularly in rural areas. Political, religious, and cultural barriers that have long defined social behaviors stood in the way of couples’ ability to protect and plan their family’s health and wellbeing. This lack of access to family planning information and services brought Guatemala to its current position: it has highest fertility rates in the hemisphere.

Chuwanimajuyu Municipal Park, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala was established with support from the local government and USAID.

Stretching 236 miles from Mexico to El Salvador, Guatemala’s breathtaking Sierra Madre range hosts 37 active volcanic cones. With peaks known as the islands in the sky reaching 11,000 feet, the Atitlán Volcanic chain is a major tourist attraction and sustains an outstanding wealth of biodiversity and sacred Mayan cultural sites. Unfortunately, widespread poverty, high population density, slash and burn agriculture, and uncontrolled tourism threaten the ecological and cultural integrity of the Atitlán region. Deforestation, erosion, habitat fragmentation, and pollution are ruining this majestic terrain.

Ixil Maya mothers in the village of Acul, near the north central mountain town of Nebaj

Rural Guatemalan families that were already living in poverty and malnourished were severely affected in 2001 by natural disasters, a drop in export prices (particularly coffee), and a global economic recession. Among other consequences, these events precipitated a severe nutrition crisis, suddenly taking many lives, particularly among women and children.


Last updated: January 12, 2015

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