Retalhuleu is a city and municipality in southwestern Guatemala. The city has 90,500 inhabitants. Its port is used for the export of coffee, lumber and sugar.
It is estimated that 40% of Retalhuleu's population lives below the poverty line. 60% lack access to basic sanitation and 40% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Children and young people growing up in poverty need extra support so that they stay healthy and safe.
Since 1980, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Retalhuleu.
Around 56% of children under 2 years of age have anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. It has negative effects on children's physical and cognitive development, behavior and academic performance.
Children suffering from malnutrition and anemia have higher mortality rates, lower educational attainment, and the prospect of low-wage jobs later in life.
Studies show that indigenous children and children living in rural areas are most at risk. The southwestern part of the country has the highest percentage of malnourished children under the age of five and the highest anemia rate.
Families experiencing financial hardship living near the Samala volcano in Retalhuleu crush volcanic rock on the banks of the Samala River. Children from these families also break rocks to supplement household income by selling gravel.
It takes a 13-year-old boy about three days to crush one cubic meter of stone using only a hammer. Children working as stone crushers risk their health every day. Flying stone splinters can cause serious eye injuries, as well as lifting heavy loads of gravel can cause back and muscle problems.
Families need support so that their children don’t have to do this dangerous work.