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Child’s life at risk due to Guatemala´s noncompliance

The critical condition of an 8-year-old girl demonstrates the State’s lack of compliance with sentences issued in 2013.

In 2011, four Chortís women in the municipality of Camotán, Guatemala filed lawsuits against the State claiming that the right to adequate food and nutrition (RtFN) of their five children (3 girls and 2 boys) was being violated as they suffered from malnutrition. Following a lengthy legal process, in 2013 the court declared that the State of Guatemala had not only violated the RtFN, but also the right to life, health, education, housing, and work of the children and their families. After several appeals, the sentences were finally confirmed in 2015 by the Constitutional Court - the highest judicial body in the country – which ordered that various State agencies take specific measures to remedy the damages caused to the families. Nevertheless, at this time, the life of one of these girls, who is just 8 years old, is in grave danger, which again confirms that said measures have yet to be implemented. Despite some incomplete and fragmented actions by the State, these families’ living conditions have not improved substantially.

These cases of malnourished children in Camotán are not isolated incidents, but indicative of a widespread problem. The suffering of these children illustrates structural issues and human rights violations in Guatemala, where women and children are especially vulnerable, and discrimination against rural and indigenous peoples is also prevalent. The young girl has been transferred to a hospital in the country’s capital after battling infection and undergoing several surgeries. Her health status is aggravated by acute and chronic malnutrition and is the result of other unaddressed problems. Therefore, the State must guarantee urgent and adequate medical treatment, and be held accountable for violating its human rights obligations and complying with the Court’s sentences. If something were to happen to this child, the State is required to provide reparation, including compensation to the family. The State of Guatemala has yet to comply with the Court’s sentences. It is imperative that it does so and thereby restores the affected families' RtFN and their economic, social and cultural rights as well.

In a press conference on July 25th, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) reported that the girl suffers from chronic malnutrition. She is in grave physical condition involving several serious health problems. The PDH authorities have brought this case to the attention of the Public Ministry who will investigate the public institutions responsible for non-compliance with the sentences issued. These cases have been reported regionally and internationally, including before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations’ human rights system.

Guatemala has one the highest rates of chronic malnutrition for children in Latin America. The National Maternal and Children’s Health Survey (ENSMI) found that 46% of children in Guatemala suffer from chronic malnutrition; this rate increases substantially among rural and indigenous populations.

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UPDATE, August 15: Despite efforts and various medical interventions, the girl, named Mavelita, passed away on August 14. We express our sincere condolences to her family.


We will provide more information in the coming days.