January 31, 2004

Guatemala to distribute emergency rations

Private groups, governments providing food for 77,000

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (AP) --In an effort to beat back starvation, the
government will distribute 970 tons of donated emergency rations to 77,000 people in 10
poverty stricken towns, Guatemala's president said Saturday.

Visiting the isolated community of Comitancillo, 125 miles (200 kilometers)
northwest of Guatemala City, Oscar Berger said the food donations were the
first step in a nationwide plan to stamp out poverty.

"We have a proposal to end poverty and hunger over the medium term, but for
now we are attacking urgent food shortages," presidential spokeswoman Rosa
Maria de Frade said.

Comitancillo is one of the communities where residents will receive rations,
consisting of packets of beans, corn, powdered milk and cooking oil, as well as
rice and soy mixtures.

The towns receiving the donations were chosen by government analysts who
considered poverty, malnutrition and starvation rates as well as the persistence
of infant mortality.

De Frade said the rations were donated by international governments and
private groups, adding "we aren't using state funds because we don't have them
to spare."

About 60 percent of Guatemala's population of 11.3 million lives in extreme
poverty, according to government census figures.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.