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WFP: Food Crisis in Central America Worsens - 2002-10-25

The United Nations World Food Program says it is working to alleviate food crises in three Central American countries, the latest in El Salvador.

World Food Program spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says the agency has just begun a special feeding program for 6,000 severely malnourished children in El Salvador.

"We are not only helping the kids, but also the family, because the problem is that the families have little food. So, they are sharing the food," she said. "And, if we cure the kid and send him back to his family, a family which does not have enough food, the kid is going to be sick again. So, this is why we are also distributing food to the members of the family, so that they have more food to share, and the little kids will not go back into the acute malnutrition state."

Under this program, WFP is feeding 30,000 family members in El Salvador.

Ms. Berthiaume says the agency is also continuing its special feeding programs for tens-of-thousands of severely malnourished children and their families in Guatemala and Honduras. She says the program in Guatemala has saved the lives of 6,000 children.

The World Food Program currently is assisting more than 1.5 million people in Central America. It says most of these people are suffering from chronic malnutrition, which results in stunted growth among children.

According to spokeswoman Berthiaume, a dire situation is becoming worse. "Now, what we are seeing more and more is acute malnutrition, where little kids are losing weight, and they are becoming tinier and tinier, and some of them are living skeletons," she said.

Ms. Berthiaume adds that people in Central America are suffering from drought and the cumulative effects of various natural catastrophes over the past decade. She says the dramatic fall in coffee prices is adding to the nutritional problems. She notes the drop in the coffee market has resulted in many people losing their jobs and an increase in poverty.