The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today approved an emergency operation in Guatemala to help 155,000 people, including nearly 60,000 children under the age of five, who are suffering from acute malnutrition.“Working jointly with the Guatemalan government and the international community, we can help these malnourished children avoid further suffering – particularly the 6,000 children who are at risk of dying if we do not help them immediately,” Francisco Roque Castro, WFP Latin American and Caribbean Regional Director, said of the $4.8 million emergency operation, which will require 8,553 tons of food to help 154,985 people for six months.Guatemala – like other Central American countries – was hard-hit last year by a severe drought that affected 31,000 families who lost their harvest. The families’ livelihoods depended exclusively on their subsistence crops and occasional day labour in neighbouring farms.According to WFP, Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America, affecting 47 per cent of children under five years of age. Already, 126 children have died from malnutrition since the drought.In this emergency operation, WFP said it will focus its assistance on 88 of the 102 municipalities most affected by the drought, chosen via an evaluation and nutritional census carried out by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Guatemalan Ministry of Health and the agency’s Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping unit. The remaining 14 municipalities will be covered by international non-governmental organizations.