GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom has decreed a national alert for malnutrition that hits half of the country's children as a result of the loss of crops caused by climate change, a government source said Tuesday.

The situation of nutritional alert in the country was decreed by President Colom in the Council of Ministers” Monday night, the head of the Social Communication Secretariat of the Presidency, Ronaldo Robles, told reporters.

According to figures from the United Nations, 49 percent of Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, the highest rate in Latin America. For its part, the Ministry of Food and Nutrition Security has identified 15,000 children who require urgent food assistance. The National Council of Food Security presented to the government a Nutritional Risk plan, which includes four axes with which it is intended to combat the problem in the long term. The critical food situation of this country of 14 million inhabitants, half of them in poverty, is one of the effects of climate change, according to experts. Guatemala, with a vast indigenous peasant population carrying out subsistence crops, has been suffering from prolonged droughts, alternating with intense rains, which have damaged the plantations of thousands of poor families, who lost the staple foods they cultivated for their own consumption.

On Monday, Vice President Rafael Espada had announced that the nutritional alert was going to be decreed, while warning about the problems of lack of resources, since the government estimates that it needs $ 42 million for urgent food assistance plans, and only has 6 millions. Five months before the presidential elections, the Colom government also faces the problem of the disappearance of a shipment of 40,000 tons of emergency food rations, made from peanuts, donated by the UN in November.

We are doing a serious investigation; first, to see where that food is, what happened to that food and what indicators were used and what they did, if they were thrown away, if they were sold, if the food was given to someone”, Vice President Espada said.