The most populous country in Central America, Guatemala is proud of its Mayan heritage but also its diversity, with over 24 linguistic groups. Most of the people live in rural areas, although more and more are migrating to urban centers for work. Approximately 51% of Guatemalans live below the national poverty line.
According to the most recent Joint Monitoring Program Report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 94% of Guatemalans have access to improved water sources and 80% have improved sanitation facilities. At first glance, these numbers seem impressive, but they do not provide a complete picture of water and sanitation access in the country, as many of the improved systems do not meet government standards and are in partial or complete failure.
Water For People has been in Guatemala since 1997. In the years following its first work, more than 100 water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives were implemented throughout the country. In 2007, Water For People–Guatemala developed a strategic plan to work exclusively in the department of El Quiché, to maximize existing partnerships and staff time. El Quiché was also selected because of its great need: the department has one of the highest levels of poverty in the country and very low levels of water and sanitation coverage.