Situation Update and Progress
Guatemala continues to be a country of origin and return for Guatemalans in need of protection, as well as a country of transit and destination for people from different countries fleeing violent environments.
In January 2022, the Protection cluster began updating their contingency plan to respond to mass migration flows that, since January 2022, have increased compared to 2021, especially in relation to people arriving from Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti.
During the first quarter of 2022, the number of returnees doubled to 24,000 between Tecun Uman and Guatemala City, while refugee status requests increased by 47 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Through the Departmental Migration and Protection Working Group, UNHCR in Puerto Barrios has been coordinating with local government institutions and civil society organisations to ensure access to Guatemala and asylum for forcibly displaced people. Together with IOM, UNICEF, government institutions, and local partners, the working group set up various Help Centres for migrants and refugees (CAPyR, per its Spanish acronym) in key locations to scale up protection and assistance for people on the move. Additionally, partners are still providing cash transfers, now with reduced transaction costs and time. UNHCR also signed an agreement with Banrural, the bank with the largest in-country presence, for delivering assistance directly to those in need.
The Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA), which UN Women and CARE carried out during the last quarter of 2021, showed the impact of the pandemic on the rights of Guatemalan women, teenagers, and girls, identifying a deepening of gender inequalities.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the population’s overall health, the fourth wave of high Omicrondriven transmission from January to March 2022 did not lead to a significant increase in hospital occupancy rates or deaths. Guatemala is currently experiencing low transmission.
As of epidemiological week 12 (24 March), authorities reported 628 dengue cases (a 4 per cent increase compared to the same week in 2021), with a cumulative incidence rate of 3.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, an unusual increase given that dengue cases historically increase around epidemiological week 20, likely worsening during the rainy season.
With funding from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), PAHO/WHO Guatemala continues to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Health in areas affected by Eta and Iota. The current implementation of the “health response to Eta/Iota in the departments of Izabal, Alta Verapaz and Peten” will ensure the continuity of primary care services and mitigate the impact of the emergency. However, roughly 74 primary and secondary health care services affected by the storms have yet to be rehabilitated, limiting access to health and disrupting the continuity of care for the general population.
As of March 2022, the number of children with cases of severe acute malnutrition increased by 472 compared to 2021, with 71 per cent of cases reported in children under 24 months of age. An increase in cases is also expected due to the increase in basic food prices and a decrease in routine services while COVID-19 vaccination remains a priority. This trend also shows that the children affected are predominantly from urban areas, although this could also indicate a lack of case identification in rural areas. The Nutrition sector is working with the Ministry of Health on validating a sustainable model for comprehensive health brigades for children and women, coordinating with the relevant health areas for gap analysis.
In February, the prices of gasoline, diesel, and propane gas increased, (36, 48 and 5 per cent respectively compared to the previous year, with variations of 59, 91 and 29 per cent above average for the past five years), as well as significant price increases in high consumption products such as bread, oil, and sugar during the past three months, restricting the purchasing power of households.
Poor rural households are to be classified as Stressed (IPC phase 2) until of June3 . Low incomes, atypical debts, and high costs of food, transport, and agricultural supplies, in addition to the lean season, will lead to increased use of negative coping strategies and increase the number of households in Crisis (IPC phase 3). Poor households in both the eastern and western parts of the Dry Corridor and areas affected by Eta and Iota will be classified as in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the period. WFP continues to support humanitarian activities, as well as promote resilience and help strengthen national capacities. Key activities include conditional cash transfers and the provision of non-food items, equipment, and technical assistance.
All emergency response activities consider gender as a crosscutting pillar, assuring a balanced gender representation at the community level that addresses people’s needs, prioritizing vulnerable groups such as pregnant and lactating women and girls, and female heads of households. Where possible, women were registered as the main recipients of cash transfers, contributing to women’s increased decision-making in the household.