Occupying a total land area of 108,889 km2, the Republic of Guatemala lies in the heart of Central America and is bordered by Mexico and Belize to the north, The Atlantic Ocean to the east, and El Salvador, Honduras and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Two thirds of the country is mountainous and dominated by a string of volcanic ranges running northwest to southwest.
With an annual GDP of US $37 billion, Guatemala is the largest economy in Central America and also one of the most densely populated. Even though Guatemala has the status of lower-middle-income country, it is one of the poorest countries in the region and is marked by social indicators that often fall below those of countries with far lower per capita incomes. More than half of Guatemala’s population lives in rural areas, and of that 70 percent live in poverty. These disparities acutely affects the indigenous Mayan majority who are oftentimes excluded from the political and social mainstream, making this group especially vulnerable to climate change and frequent natural disasters that affect the region.
As a result of widespread deforestation and land degradation, slash-and-burn subsistence agriculture and overexploitation of water resources, Guatemalans rely on degraded natural resources and lands with low productivity, leading to increased food insecurity and vulnerability. Other factors that increase vulnerability include urbanization and rapid population growth in high-risk areas such as the highlands and Pacific coastal regions, highly vulnerable physical structures, limited access to suitable water and health services, and low capacity to manage natural disaster risks.
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities