Preview: Picturesque Guatemala Overwhelmed by Violence, Poverty

BY Talea Miller  February 22, 2011 at 2:45 PM EDT

Senior correspondent Ray Suarez, just back from a reporting trip, describes Guatemala as a land of exquisite beauty, but also of exquisite agony. Violence against women is systemic and widespread – part of an overall pattern of violence that the citizens of Guatemala, who have endured several civil wars in the last 50 years, are suffering. The country is also hard hit with malnutrition and has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the hemisphere.

Ray spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about his trip and the challenges Guatemalans faces on a daily basis.

On March 7-8, the global health unit will air two stories from Guatemala on the NewsHour, focusing on family planning and maternal health and violence against women. The NewsHour will also air follow-up discussions with representatives of NGO groups working in Guatemala and government officials. President Obama will visit Central America in mid-March as part of a three-nation trip.

On the NewsHour‘s web site you can read a reporter’s notebook from Ray on the complexities of preaching family planning in a traditional and religious society. Two reports from the field look at the the high levels of violence against women and efforts to provide young girls with education on how to protect themselves against violence. There is also a look at the high rates of malnutrition among Guatemala’s children and the health implications of the condition later in life.

Watch for much more as our series begins March 7. Web features will include a slideshow on indigenous communities in Guatemala, a timeline of historical events, and features on drug cartel violence in the region and gang-related crime in Guatemala City.