Despite the country’s beautiful landscapes and a people who find joy in life’s simple pleasures, living in Guatemala can be challenging. More than half its citizens live below the national poverty line, 25% live in extreme poverty earning less than $2/day. What’s more, the country ranks 13th in the world for its level of income inequality.

The effects of a 36-year civil war can still be seen all over Guatemala, even after more than two decades of peace. Corruption, unemployment and violence are commonplace, impacting families living in poverty for generations.

Guatemalans’ fight against poverty doesn’t have an easy fix. We know high school graduation is the way out, but we also recognize the need for support beyond academics.

First priority is survival

For families living in poverty, education quickly takes a backseat to earning an income. In Guatemala, the average number of completed years of education for adults is 3.5 years. Only 70% of children graduate from sixth grade, 32% from junior high and a mere 18.6% from high school.

Access to health care is a challenge

In Guatemala, there are only nine doctors for every 10,000 people. Many cannot afford the cost of treatments and medications. Major causes of death still include treatable illnesses and diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition. Respiratory infection and diarrhea are the leading cause of death for infants. In fact, the infant mortality rate is extremely high. Additionally, malnutrition is a serious issue particularly among children.

Inadequate housing affects learning and health

Many people in Guatemala live in inadequate and unsafe conditions with 67% living in homes without roofs and sufficient living space. Homes in rural areas are crafted from scrap metal. It’s also common to see homes built with cornstalk walls and dirt floors. Many of these dwellings also do not have potable water or sanitation systems. These conditions can lead to parasitic food contamination, life-threatening disease and family strain.

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