Guatemala Country Profile
Dotted with volcanoes, Mayan ruins, lakes and exotic birds Guatemala's beauty is in stark contrast to its troubled past and present. A vicious civil war that ended in 1996 left 200,000 dead or disappeared - most of them civilians. Today infant mortality, illiteracy, malnutrition and life expectancy are among the lowest in the region and the country is plagued by poverty, organised crime, drug trafficking and violent gangs.
Guatemala Facts & Figures
- Land area: 108,890 sq km
- Capital: Guatemala City
- Population: 12.3 million
- Infant Mortality: 30.94 / 1000
- Literacy: 70.6%
- Below poverty line: 75%
Helping Homeless and at Risk Children in Guatemala
Guatemala is a hotbed for human trafficking. As the 2009 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report aptly states, "Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalans and Central Americans trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor." Covenant House's 27 years of experience in Guatemala corroborates this claim, with many hundreds of cases of children and young people flowing through our doors seeking protection, legal support, rehabilitation and other services. As the recent crackdown on international adoptions demonstrated - a charge that was led, in large part, by Covenant House - human trafficking in Guatemala affects the most marginalized and voiceless populations.
Covenant House in its re-entry stage has designed a four-pronged approach to combating trafficking in persons in Guatemala. Through public education, public policy advocacy, a residential program for child victims of trafficking, and legal advocacy on behalf of individual victims, Covenant House aims to develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking program that will last well beyond the scope of this project. By training public servants, NGOs, and communities in effective strategies for combating trafficking, by launching a collective public policy advocacy campaign with others by its side into the public limelight, by serving 12 to 18 year old victims of this crime, and by advocating on behalf of child victims in a court of law, Covenant House leverages its broad and deep organizational wisdom, from within Guatemala and beyond, to create an approach that aims to effectively combat child trafficking from many fronts so as to involve the NGO community, the State, the Guatemalan community at large, and the victims themselves in this effort.
The residential centre of La Alianza Guatemala was inaugurated in January 2011, responding to the needs of the 15,000 child trafficking victims in Guatemala who have virtually no access to specialist support, care and rehabilitation services upon being rescued. We currently have over 65 young girls and their children at the residential centre of La Alianza, all of whom are survivors of sexual abuse, exploitation and/or human trafficking. Virtually all of the survivors have been referred to us by government officials including judges, police and government ministry personnel.
The residential home is the only 24 hour shelter in Guatemala exclusively set up for girls between the ages of 12-18 who are survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The safe house provides free services for any girl that is pregnant or has a child that has been living on the streets or has been trafficked. Young mothers are provided with accommodation, food, drug detoxification (if appropriate) and crucial medical attention including pre and post-natal care, accompaniment to medical appointments and continuous support as they embark upon motherhood. Association La Alianza’s provides the girls with a safe environment where they have the opportunity to learn, grow and are supported physically and emotionally as they begin the long recovery process.
The programme provides counselling, group therapy, self-help groups and specialist psychology services so that young mothers are able to begin to rebuild their lives and learn how to trust and build relationships with staff and support mothers. Our philosophy is built upon mutual respect with the needs and rights of each young mother at the heart of our work.
Many of the mothers in the programme are themselves children, so we provide child care to enable them to attend school or study vocational courses so they are able to build a future for themselves, free from the streets and earn a living in the future with these qualifications, to break the cycle of poverty. In addition, we provide support to young mothers, teaching them how to look after their children, providing advice and guidance which allows their babies to develop both physically and psychologically, effectively laying the foundations for a healthy social and emotional life. The programme covers a range of topics to raise self-esteem, confidence building, and self-respect, developing healthy relationships (friendships, families and partners) and provides individual sessions to ensure each child receives specialised one-to-one support to enable them to move forward with their lives with care and confidence.
Year Established: 1981
Programs & Services: Community Outreach, Human Trafficking Prevention , Advocacy, Coalition Work , Residential, Legal & Psychological Care opened in 2011.
Guatemala Programmes in Depth
Year Established: 1981
Programs & Services: Community Outreach, Human Trafficking Prevention , Advocacy, Coalition Work , Residential, Legal & Psychological Care (opening December 2010)
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