Gloria must have a future free of abuse and exploitationGive now
Eduardo must have access to educationGive now
Maria must have access to healthcareGive now
Children in Guatemala must have a birth certificateGive now
Guatemala is home to some of the most breath-taking scenery on earth. Yet it is also an exceedingly violent and dangerous place to live.
Poverty in this small, Central American country is crippling, and criminal gangs dominate large parts of the country with drug smuggling, extortion, kidnapping and murder. Police and state officials are often complicit in the lawlessness.
It is the young who are the most vulnerable and almost half of Guatemala's population is under the age of 19. Years of civil war have left thousands of adults dead, displaced or ‘disappeared’.
It is estimated that 700,000 of these children do not have a birth certificate. Yet they must have one if they are to access their legal rights: such as education, healthcare and police protection.
There are many reasons why a child might not have a birth certificate. For example, if they have been orphaned, or have run from an abusive home, they will have nobody to help them with the registration process.
If a child's parents grew up on the streets and were not registered themselves. This perpetuates a cycle, as a person who does not officially exist cannot officially have children.
But by far the biggest barrier to a child getting a birth certificate is the cost.
Though a birth certificate itself is only £1, there are many other, associated costs that are far beyond the reach of the poorest people.
In Guatemala’s poorer regions – such as the heavily populated and exceptionally poor Alta Verapaz region – the cost of transport alone makes registering a child impossible for some people.
We have already registered over 2000 children in Guatemala, and we have set ourselves the ambitious goal of registering 800 indigenous children of Alta Verapaz
Lying roughly 100 km to the north east of Guatemala City, Alta Verapaz is one of the most populated, and most deprived, regions of Guatemala. Over 90% of the population here is indigenous, and belongs mostly to the Q’equchi and Poqomchi ethnicities.
Indigenous people in Guatemala suffer much higher levels of poverty compared to non-indigenous people. In fact, a child of Q’equchi and Poqomchi ethnicity is a third more likely to live in extreme poverty than other Guatemalans.
As a result of this deprivation, few children are registered at birth. This limits opportunities and leads to low literacy and income levels. And so the people in Alta Verapaz find themselves trapped in a hopeless web of poverty.
Many families in Alta Verapaz migrate to Guatemala City in a vain bid to improve their lives. But without their birth certificates, there are no opportunities for them and they end up trying to survive on the streets. It is a terrifying and vulnerable existence with no means of escape.
We hope to carry out five mass registration events for the children of Alta Verapaz. These will be all-day events with an emphasis on reaching as many unregistered children as we can for the money we have available.
All too often mass gatherings in Guatemala are dangerous, frightening or negative events such as riots and protests. In contrast, we expect these mass registration events to be joyous, inspiring gatherings with a wholly positive outcome.