ChildFund has worked in Guatemala since 1964. Since then, we have seen great change and tremendous adversity. Much progress has been made during the past 49 years, but there is still much to do. ChildFund President and CEO Anne Goddard is in Guatemala this week, meeting our local partners, exploring the difficulties faced by the Guatemalan people firsthand and raising awareness of the plight of children living in the country's poorest regions.
More than half of the Guatemalan population lives below the poverty line. Some regions have fared better than others, but several problems persist throughout the country, including malnutrition. Almost half of all children under the age of 5 suffer from anemia, and malnutrition is the single largest cause of child mortality in this age group. Almost 60 percent of children living in rural areas experience stunting due to malnutrition.
Violence is another problem facing Guatemalan children. Incidences of rape among children between 4 and 11 years old have more than doubled in the past year, according to data from Guatemala's attorney general's office. Protecting the rights and well-being of children is one of ChildFund's top priorities.
During Goddard's trip, she will spend time with families of children enrolled in the child sponsorship program. Currently, more than 15,000 Guatemalan children and their families receive support from sponsors, but there are still many more who need our help. Goddard also plans to visit the "Strong Families" project, an initiative that seeks to strengthen communities through awareness and child rights advocacy.
Later this week, Goddard will meet with the leaders of other nongovernmental organizations and local authorities to highlight the vital importance of protecting children's rights in Guatemala and will speak on the issue at a press conference to raise awareness of Guatemala's social problems.
More than 30,000 children and parents benefit from ChildFund's assistance in Guatemala, and although this is encouraging, there is still a long way to go before conditions can improve for the millions of children in need throughout the country. To help us protect vulnerable children and offer them the hope of a brighter future, please consider becoming a child sponsor today.