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Guatemala's civil war, which officially ended in 1996, resulted in 34,000 refugees, and one million internally displaced persons, half of whom were children. Guatemala provides one of the least supportive environments for children's development across Central America. This is due to the high percentage of Guatemalan families living in poverty and the lack of public welfare, education and social service programs. 7

In 2000, over half of the population (56.2%) lived in poverty. This percentage is higher than any other Central American country. Over 81% of the poor and 93% of the extreme poor live in the countryside. Sixty-eight percent of children under age six live in poverty. 7

Over three million children suffer from malnutrition. This rate is 50% higher than any other Latin American country and is among the worst in the world. Guatemala's 1995 National Survey on Maternal and Infant Health found 50% of children under five who reach adolescence suffer from chronic malnutrition that leads to stunted growth. 7

Guatemalan women have one of the highest fertility rates in all of Latin America. In 2000, the rate was 4.8 births per woman and then decreased to 4.2 in 2007. The fertility rate is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In contrast, the adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women, ages 15-19) was 118 in 2000 and dropped to 107 in 2007. 7

Despite decreasing rates, the under-five mortality rates and infant mortality rates continue to be among the highest in Central America. The under-five mortality rate is defined as the probability of dying between birth and exactly five years of age expressed per 1,000 live births. The rate was 168 in 1970 and drastically reduced in 1990 to 82. 8 The under-five mortality rate continued to drop in 2000 (52) and in 2007 (39). 6 The infant mortality rate is defined as the probability of dying between birth and exactly one year of age expressed per 1,000 live births. This rate decreased from 60 in 1990 to 29 in 2007. 8


6 Families in the Process of Adoption in Guatemala Unite to Advocate for Due Process in the Remaining Children's Adoption cases in Guatemala. Press Release, Guatemala 900, guatemala900.org/wp/?page_id=406

7 UNICEF, Guatemalan Adoption and the Best Interests of the Child: An Informative Study, Presented by Families Without Borders, November 2003, www.familieswithoutborders.com/FWBstudyGuatemala.pdf

8 UNICEF, Guatemala, www.unicef.org/infobycountry/guatemala.html


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