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Guatemala, climate change and tax dodging - Juan's story

By Clare Groves 

This June, when UK prime minister, David Cameron, heads to the G20 in Mexico, we’re asking him to use this opportunity to tackle two major causes of global poverty – climate change and tax dodging.

JuanJust south of Mexico, in Guatemala, seven-year-old Juan David Valladares Paz has experienced first-hand how climate change and tax dodging are keeping people in poverty.

Juan’s world was turned upside down when a tropical storm engulfed his community.

The damage caused by the storm was devastating, but for Juan his main memory is climbing a tree to see his house collapse into a river that hadn’t been there just a week before.

‘We were without my mum for eight days,’ says Juan.

‘She was in a shelter in a house that is on high land. I watched my house fall into the water… it was breaking in half.’

Scientists agree that the storms that hit this community on Guatemala’s pacific coast are becoming stronger and more frequent, and that this is probably because of climate change.

To make matters worse, Guatemala is being hit doubly hard by tax dodging, which is so widespread that the government doesn’t collect enough money to look after even the most basic needs of its poorest people.

With the right resources there are things that can be done to prevent damage on this scale.

Communities like Juan’s are lobbying for protection against floods, and asking local government to clear and maintain the riverways which could carry floodwater safely away.

However, because of low levels of tax collection and widespread corporate tax dodging, the Guatemalan government has struggled even to fund the national emergency warning system that saves people's lives when disasters strike.

The problems caused by tax dodging run even deeper. Fifty per cent of Guatemalan children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and many succumb to diseases that would be easy to prevent and treat – if only more money were available to the government.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The systems and structures that cause poverty were built by people, and they can be ended by people.

Christian Aid is calling on our leaders to commit to investing in clean energy for the world’s poor so that poor communities can develop without making climate change worse.

And we need global action on tax havens and the companies that abuse them so that countries like Guatemala can afford to protect their people and lift them out of poverty.


Take action!

Act now!Write to David Cameron now and ask him to make sure the world's poorest are heard at June's G20 summit. 

About the author

Clare Groves

Clare Fussell is a campaigns officer for Christian Aid

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