Jocotán is a town and municipality in the department of Chiquimula, home to indigenous Mayan communities. It is located in the north of the city of Chiquimula, near the border with Honduras, and has over 60,000 inhabitants. Jocotán is one of the communities with the highest levels of poverty in the country.
Because Chiquimula is part of an arid corridor, the area is affected by increasing weather extremes that destroy crops and lead to widespread food shortages and extreme poverty. As a result, the department of Chiquimula has the second highest malnutrition rate in Guatemala.
Since 1983, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Jocotán.
In Guatemala, the culture in some rural communities views boys and men as the family's main income earners. As a result, boys are more protected and cared for than girls and are less likely to be malnourished. It is not only children under five who are most at risk. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as women between 15 and 45 years of childbearing age, are also at risk.
Some children suffer long-term effects due to chronic malnutrition, resulting in 40% less brain development by age 3. These infants may not grow as healthily as they should. In addition, their immune system may be weakened, meaning they are more likely to catch infections.
Over 66% of girls in Guatemala have their first child when they are still under 17 years of age. The number of pregnancies among girls and adolescents in Guatemala has reached alarming proportions. The National Observatory of Sexual and Reproductive Health reported that in 2021, 2,041 girls under the age of 14 gave birth. In the same year, 65,000 pregnancies were registered among girls and adolescents aged 10 to 19.
When girls and young women become pregnant, not only is their health in danger, but they are also more likely to drop out of school and training.