The Story of Silveria Pérez and her Four Children

Silveria Pérez at home in Chiquimula Department, Guatemala with her son. Photo: Pablo Tosco


Silveria Pérez has four children and lives in a rural community in Guatemala which has been devastated by severe drought.

Her husband, like many of their neighbours, has had to leave home and seek work in Mexico –others have made the long and dangerous journey to the United States.

Mrs Pérez said they used to have fields and crops.

"Each year the winter is getting shorter. The harvests are no good. When I was little, I remember that it used to rain quite a lot but it doesn’t anymore. There’s no water now and there aren’t any beans, we just make tortillas which we eat with salt."

"This is not enough for the children. You’re told your child is malnourished. You get scared and wonder if they will die. You can’t sleep because you're thinking about what you can do but you have no money. My husband goes away to work in Mexico. He brings money to buy food. It’s not enough. It’s not even enough to buy a pound of corn," she laments.

Silveria is not alone – her story is shared by countless households across Guatemala, Honduras El Salvador and Nicaragua, where a climate-fuelled El Niño period has brought nearly six years of drought.

Most crops have failed, leaving 3.5 million people – many of whom farm corn, beans, rice, sugar cane and coffee to make a living – in need of humanitarian assistance, and 2.5 million people food-insecure.

A recent Oxfam study estimated that more than 78% of the corn and bean harvest was lost in Guatemala in 2019, affecting at least 250,000 people.

Child malnutrition also increased from 60% in 2016 to 69% in 2019.

With no food and no means to make a living, people have little option but to make the long and dangerous journey to Mexico or the United States in the hope of finding work and feeding their families.

Yet their hopes are too often crushed at the border where they are detained for long periods in abysmal conditions, while trying to navigate an unsympathetic and hostile migration and asylum system.

Figures from US Customs and Border Protection show that 850,000 migrants arrived at the Mexican border in 2018 – more than double the year before – with the majority coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

There has also been a marked change in the kind of migrants arriving at the border with record numbers of families and unaccompanied children arriving.

While there are many factors driving migration in the Dry Corridor, the climate crisis is becoming an increasingly important one.

Without urgent action even more families will be forced to flee – the World Bank estimates that the number of people displaced by the climate crisis in Central America could rise to 2.1 million by 2050.

#climatecrisis #saveourplanet #saveourpeople #unclimatesummit


Melissa Coleman

Freelance Journalist/Author/PR Manager



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