I chose to review the UNICEF region of Guatemala. I have a student in my class this year whose family is from Guatemala. I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the life they left when they came to the United States to begin a new life. Honestly, I am more unaware than I care to admit what life is like in other parts of the world. I was surprised and saddened by what I learned about my student’s homeland.
To say Guatemala has it all is not the catch phrase one might think. Guatemala is a region of the world that has many challenges that have affected the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of generations of children. The natural disasters range from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, landslides, to sever floods. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.). “From 1976-2009 natural disasters took the lives of about 82,000 people and affected over 6 million others. The economic impact of the damages was around 3 billion (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.). This is just the beginning of the challenges Guatemalan children face daily.
The UNICEF Guatemala has identified four areas of priority for this region; social inclusion, protection of children and adolescents, education for life, and a good start in life. Each of these components are working to improve conditions in Guatemala for children. Social inclusion component is working on equal opportunities for all children. Indigenous people are excluded and discriminated against; with the greatest emphasis on girls, children with disabilities, and children affected by HIV. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) The protection of children and adolescent component is working on strengthening the national system for protection. “Guatemala is ranked 5th highest in the world’s homicide rate. About 40 children are orphaned each day due to murder (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.).” Children live in constant fear of violence, exploitation, neglect, abuse, trafficking, and forced marriages at yearly ages. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) The education for life component is working on universal access to preschool, primary, and secondary education for girls and boys. The good start in life component is working to reduce malnutrition and expanding access to quality care for pregnant women and the first 1,000 days of life for newborns. They are working on reducing the rate of child and maternal mortality, improving nutrition, water quality, sanitation, and hygiene to improve the physical and mental development of children. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) Guatemala is clearly a region with many challenges that have a lasting effect on children’s early development.
“Negative early experiences can impair children’s mental health and effect their cognitive, behavioral, social-emotional development (Trustees of Columbia University, 2010).” The children of Guatemala face extreme negative conditions from multiple sources and it is effecting their physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive health. “Trauma is toxic to the brain and can affect development and learning in a multitude of ways. However, children are resilient and within positive learning environments they can grow, learn, and succeed (Souers & Hall, 2016).” Although children in Guatemala are facing great challenges and trauma with help and support, they can survive and thrive in life. Efforts like those of the UNICEF are critical for the development of Guatemalan children and their future success. The ultimate goal is that all “children can exercise all of their rights to survive, prosper and develop their full potential (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.).”
This study of Guatemala has given me new insight to my student whose family is from Guatemala. I have a new found understanding and respect for the possible challenges they faced and left behind to come to the United States to raise their children. Personally, I have gained a new appreciation for the organizations that advocate and support children in our country and around the world. Human rights are for all not just those that have a governments that protect them. We need to be the voice for those that have no voice! (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010)
Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Souers, K., & Hall, P. (2016). Fostering Resilient Learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Trustees of Columbia University, The. (2010). National Center for Children
in Poverty (NCCP).
UNICEF Guatemala, (nd.). UNICEF for every child