San Jerónimo is a town and municipality in the Baja Verapaz department. It is located in the San Jerónimo Valley with a population of 25,459. San Jerónimo is one of Guatemala’s municipalities with the highest production of sugar and sweetener.
Guatemala has the lowest levels of literacy (70%) in Latin America. The illiteracy rate is even higher in rural areas, especially for girls and women and indigenous communities. Although education is free, it is out of reach for many households because they cannot afford to buy school materials and uniforms.
Since 2001, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in San Jerónimo.
Baja Verapaz, where San Jerónimo is located, is one of the four regions in Guatemala where most children in rural communities are malnourished.
The region is located in the arid corridor and is increasingly affected by droughts related to climate change. Crops are destroyed by prolonged droughts, increasing the number of malnourished children.
When crops are destroyed, the income of the families is affected. They are therefore unable to buy food and are forced to eat less, or eat food which is cheaper but not as rich in nutrients.
In Guatemala, 30% of girls are married before they are 18 years old, and 6% before they are 15 years old. Child marriages are more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Children who grow up in difficult family circumstances tend to be most at risk of child marriage.
Often, children who are married have to drop out of school to take care of the household, making it very difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. Other risks, such as sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies, also have a severe impact on the mental and physical health of girls and young women.