Quetzaltenango is a city and municipality in the western highlands of Guatemala with a population of 180,706. Quetzaltenango is the second largest city in Guatemala.
It is popular with tourists for its volcanoes, hot springs, valleys, mountains and rivers. Although tourism brings jobs and economic prosperity to the region, not everyone benefits from this. Many children and young people need support so that they can grow up healthily and safely.
Since 1979, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Quetzaltenango.
An estimated 51 % of the Guatemalan population lives in rural areas, where the majority of the country's poverty is found. They often live off farming, but storms and heavy rains destroy crops, leading to food insecurity.
For most children, breakfast, lunch and dinner consist of a baked tortilla with a pinch of salt and diluted coffee. Nearly one in two children in Guatemala is malnourished or does not receive a balanced diet. 90% of children living in the highland regions, especially the indigenous population, are affected by malnutrition.
In Guatemala, 30% of girls enter into marriage before they are 18 years old and 6% before they are 15 years old. Child marriages are more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Children who grow up in difficult family circumstances tend to be most at risk of child marriage.
Often, children who are married off have to drop out of school to take care of the household, making it very difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. Other risks, such as sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancy, also have a severe impact on the mental and physical health of girls and young women.