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Food & Hunger

Hunger is Driving Central Americans to Cross The U.S. Border

In this May 31, 2016 photo, students wait to have their cups filled with atole, a hot corn-based beverage, accompanied with a piece of bread, before the start of their school day in the village of Las Flores, in Guatemala's eastern state of Chiquimula. A prolonged drought has worsened the hunger problem that many of Guatemala's indigenous population have long suffered. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Food is scarce in Central America.

Many people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are migrating to the U.S. southern border because of hunger and lack of food in the drought-stricken countries, according to a new report jointly produced by the World Food Programme and international aid agencies.

Nearly half—47% of families interviewed during the study were considered “food insecure”; while findings revealed that 72% of households are already applying emergency coping strategies such as selling land, livestock or other possessions to earn money to buy food, the report said.

Instead of selling off their belongings, another option for those struggling with hunger is emigration, which young people are increasingly turning to when they feel they have no choice.

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“Human nature is the same everywhere in the world. If people can’t get food, they will move,” David Beasley, the executive director for the World Food Programme, which produced the study, told the Miami Herald.

The number of unaccompanied minors who arrived in 2016--59,692-- is down slightly from the nearly 70,000 that arrived on America’s southern border in 2014, according to the Huffington Post.

And many of those who arrive on the border are still just kids. In 2016, nearly 60,000 of the 400,000 undocumented people detained there were under age 16, the report said. Most were from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

In 2014, the Obama administration created Alliance for Prosperity, which provided funds to improve conditions in the northern triangle--the name given to those three central countries--according to the Miami Herald. Congress allocated $750 million in the 2016 budget to fund the Alliance for Prosperity, but for 2017 the amount was reduced to $655 million; under U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request, funding would be reduced to $450 million.

The reduction in aid could mean that countries struggling with extreme hunger could be even worse off in the coming year.

Read More: Canadian Government Creates Famine Relief Fund to Match Donations

“We want to make sure it’s not just something temporary,” El Salvador’s foreign minister, Hugo Martinez told the Miami Herald. “What we cannot allow is factors to incubate in our region that could lead to social unrest in the future. We have to be working now.”

The report said investments in long-term programs are needed to discourage people from emigrating, and to reduce the risks for emigrants and families left behind, who are left with a debt to pay.

Poverty and unemployment are the most common causes of emigration, followed by problems linked to agricultural losses and climate events, the report said. The El Nino drought in 2014 caused an increase in irregular migration to the United States.

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The “Dry-Corridor” running through El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua is vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change, according to VOA News.

“The impact of climate change is very drastic in the Dry Corridor and particularly in El Salvador,” said Martinez, El Salvador’s foreign minister. “In 2015 alone, we lost 470,000 tons of maize, and about 6,000 tons of beans.

Martinez said they still need the support of the international community.