Guatemalan government claims to be pro-life, but cuts funding for prevention of mortality and malnutrition
This Tuesday, the Diario de Centro América published the authorization of the organization Planned Parenthood Global to establish a chapter in Guatemala. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a non-profit organization that provides sexual and reproductive health services, abortions, and family planning resources, according to its website. The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, wasted no time in reacting through his Twitter account:
“I recognize that life begins at conception and as such my government will not tolerate any movement that violates what is stated in our constitution and goes against the values I was raised with and the principles I hold as a doctor. I AM A LOYAL DEFENDER OF LIFE and am emphatic in stating that my government will not endorse the creation, registration, or establishment of any organization that is against life.”
These declarations contrast with the actions taken by the government and Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS), which, according to El Periódico de Guatemala, has since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the amount of funding allocated to the prevention of the death and chronic malnutrition of children with the excuse that the money is needed to mitigate the pandemic. In total, 146 million Quetzals have been reallocated.
In addition to President Alejandro Giammattei, legislators from the Viva Party have demanded the removal of Oliverio García, the Minister of the Interior, for approving Planned Parenthood’s establishment in Guatemala. Furthermore, the Evangelical Alliance of Guatemala also manifested its discontent with the approval of Planned Parenthood, saying: “There is palpable discomfort felt by all ranks of people who, in accordance with our Constitution, want our society to grow and defend the family and life from the moment of conception instead of allowing a culture of decadence.”
Vice President Guillermo Castillo also affirmed his pro-life stance with the following tweet:
“Article 3 of the Constitution protects the most fundamental of human rights: life. I will always defend our constitution, laws, and the commitment to protect the most innocent and vulnerable.”
None of these people have explained the reduction in the MSPAS’ budget for the prevention of childhood mortality and malnutrition, and have placed the matter on the back burner despite UNICEF data that show that 49.8% of children suffer chronic malnutrition. That means that 1 out of every 2 children below the age of 5 have a risk of dying from this condition. Guatemala has the highest rate in Latin America, and the 6th highest rate worldwide. Claudia Santizo, a UNICEF Guatemala nutrition official said in an interview:
“Think of acute malnutrition as a death sentence, but chronic malnutrition as a life sentence where the child is not going to have an adequate future nor educational and employment opportunities and will not become a productive adult.”
The National Food Security and Nutritional Information System (SIINSAN) has not yet reported the total number of Guatemalan children under the age of 5 who died of malnutrition in 2019. The issue has been forgotten. As journalist Walter Medina says in an article at nuevatribuna.es, “After 10 months of the Giammattei government, reality indicates that the new Guatemalan Right has done nothing but aggravate misery, hunger, and poverty in one of the most diverse countries in Central America.” The irony is clear: on one hand, the government calls itself pro-life, and on the other it turns its back on children who, in the end, wind up dead.
Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons
Inserted cover photo: Taken from Flickr de Save the Children – author Andrea Aragón.