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At a glance: Guatemala


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This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

While progress has been made in recent years in the areas of health and education for Guatemalan children, social investment in Guatemala continues to be one of the lowest in Latin America. This makes it difficult for Guatemala to develop a significant social agenda. Economic and social exclusion effects a large portion of the population where more than half live in poverty and nearly 17 per cent live in extreme poverty. The situation is even worse in rural areas and among indigenous populations.

Issues facing children in Guatemala

  • Children and adolescents compose more than half of Guatemala’s population. 50 per cent of the under-18 population (around 3.7 million girls, boys and adolescents) lives in poverty. The situation is dramatically worse among children in rural areas and indigenous children and adolescents where 76 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively, live in poverty.

  • Guatemala has one of the worst nutritional conditions in the region. Nearly 23 per cent of children over three months and under five months of age suffered from general malnutrition, while almost one-half suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2006.

  • School retention in Guatemala is low, with only 60 per cent of students who start the first grade completing the sixth grade and only 39 per cent completing it at the right age.

  • Scarce financial resources for household expenses and the resulting child labor are some of the main reasons why girls and boys do not move forward in their educational path and cannot break the cycle of poverty in the future. Recent numbers show that 23 per cent of children and young people between the ages of 7 and 16 were part of the country's labor force.

  • It is well known that the high demand for children for adoption by foreign families has given rise to an adoption-related business and to situations such as kidnapping and trafficking in girls and boys. The long waiting periods and the enormous difficulties the country has experienced in enacting the Law on Adoptions show the existence of special interests in maintaining the status quo in this regard, which runs counter to children's best interests.

Activities and results for children

  • The Government recently launched several programmes to provide institutional support for children’s rights. A National Plan of Action (2004–2015) brings an integrated approach to child protection, while a Food and Nutritional Security Secretariat has been created to make the elimination of malnutrition a national priority.

  • A joint initiative by UNICEF, five other UN agencies and the Government’s National Plan for the Reduction of Chronic Malnutrition has developed a system to identify populations at nutritional risk, created vitamin A and iron supplements for children under three and pregnant and lactating mothers, and implemented a food and nutrition education project for women in more than 2,000 rural areas. The programme aims to reach 220,000 children and 150,000 expectant mothers.

  • The Becaton programme has successfully advocated for universal education as a means to achieve national development goals. The Ministry of Education has agreed to increase education funding and create scholarships for poor children.

  • Mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been successfully kept in check by free voluntary counselling and testing, followed by antiretroviral therapy if a mother tests positive for the virus.

  • With regard to adoptions, support was provided for Guatemala to reactivate its accession to the Hague Convention. UNICEF was actively involved with the international community in the enactment of Law 77-2007 on Adoptions by the Congress of Guatemala.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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