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The challenges


Inequities drive the health and nutrition challenges in Guatemala and people living in poverty, such as families in street situations are disproportionately affected. The country has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and 45% of the population live in moderate or severe food insecurity. As a result of the widespread food insecurity and inadequate nutrition, nearly half of all children under five in Guatemala are stunted. As well as the challenges associated with physical health, mental health also remains under-prioritised by the health sector in Guatemala. Less than 1% of the health care expenditure is by the Ministry of Health are allocated to mental health.

Birth registration

According to estimates by the National Institute of Statistics, an estimated 400,000 children are born each year in Guatemala, of which approximately 10% or 40,000 are not registered at birth. Without a birth certificate, they have no legal protection and insufficient access to social service systems, schooling, healthcare and formal employment opportunities.

Some of the critical factors that contribute to the challenge in Guatemala include internal displacement, loss of records, births attended by non-registered midwives, language and geographical barriers, parents not being registered themselves, and high levels of poverty preventing parents for being able to pay the costs for a birth certificate.

Exposure to high levels of violence

Guatemala’s strategic location and geography make it attractive to organised crime groups wanting to link drug producers with drug consumers. As a result, some of the crime areas which most affect the country are associated with drug trafficking, such as extortion, murder and trafficking in firearms and people. While organised crime groups have been present in the country for decades, the economic hardship following the pandemic have given gangs new opportunities to tighten their grip on the most vulnerable communities and children are exposed to high levels of violence.

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The country is home to a number of mafia style groups - some estimates suggest that there are between 10,000 to 20,000 gang members in the country. Organised crime groups are in constant need of new members and see street children as easy targets. They have a pattern of targeting minors to recruit them, as the law is more lenient on those under 18 if they are caught. The gangs also benefit from the fact that many street children are not registered at birth. Unregistered children do not officially exist, so they have no legal protection – they are not even counted as missing when they do disappear.

Children also experience violence in the home due to extreme pressures on income. Domestic violence is transgenerational and normalised through generations and is a major cause of children leaving home and turning to the streets for solace.

For street children in Guatemala, services to directly assist child victims of violence and their families remain weak in and, in many areas, non-existent.

Our work in Guatemala

Our work in Guatemala


  • Toybox supports young people to enrol in a range of vocational courses to support them with gaining employable skills for the future.

  • Parenting skills classes are delivered to parents and caregivers with a strong emphasis on reducing violence against children.

  • Our wider work focuses on building the foundations for a safe home environment with advocacy and awareness raising in the communities on violence against children.


  • Workshops are delivered to support children on the streets with learning a range of life skills.

  • Awareness raising through sexual and reproductive health workshops led by local health staff with adolescent girls take place.

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  • We focus on enhancing access to health services. Medical check-ups and eye tests are offered to children and young people.

  • Homework clubs provide educational support to children.

  • Support is provided to vulnerable street children by accompanying them to specific services including counselling and medical support.

  • Regular night outreach sessions reach children on the streets with food, water and basic medical care. During these sessions the team identify children and young people that may need additional support.

  • Weekly sports activities provide the opportunity for the young people to begin to build trusting relationships with project staff.

  • Psychosocial and therapeutic support is offered to children and young people on the streets to help them explore the issues and concerns they face.

Birth registration

  • Children and young people are supported to attain their right to identity in partnership with the government department Registro Nacional de las Personas (RENAP). Our partner works alongside RENAP to accelerate late registration through three key objectives: developing awareness amongst children and their families about the importance of birth registration; supporting children and their families throughout the state registration process, and strengthening inter-institutional coordination to increase the number of children and young people registered.
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  • Awareness raising activities on the importance of birth registration and information sharing on the process takes place. Awareness raising campaigns contribute to ensuring that those children and families directly impacted by the program use their knowledge of the importance of birth registration to ensure that they register any new births immediately and to encourage others to do so too.

  • The project runs a series of ‘Registration Days’ in which our partner and RENAP complete the process of late registration for children and young people.

  • Project staff support unregistered children with more complex cases. These can take longer to resolve and involve significant time and effort to trace back the correct documentation to ensure the child is fully registered.

  • As key gatekeepers, midwives are trained on the process of birth registration and the importance of parents registering births on time so that they are confident to inform parents and families of the process.


Our work in Guatemala has changed lives


Street Outreach • Guatemala • 2023

Dana and her sister are the first girls in her family to attend school later than Year 2 - the challenges of being connected to the street have proved too much for the generations before them. Now though, she is changing her future and looking forward to following her dream of being a vet in the future.

Read Dana's story


Birth Registration • Guatemala • 2023

When Shyla lost her ID card during pregnancy, she didn’t think much of it. However, when she gave birth to her daughter, Shyla realised the impact of not being able to register her. Thankfully, she got support from CONACMI, Toybox’s partner in Guatemala and now both she, and her daughter, can access their rights for the rest of their lives.

Read Shyla's story


Street Outreach • Guatemala • 2022

Betty’s grandmother has always encouraged her grandchildren’s education. Although Betty plays a key part in the success of the family’s stall in the local market, the time she spends at project activities is vital to her ongoing success at school. Betty dreams of being a teacher so she can help children mould their lives as her teachers have.

Read Betty's story

Johny & Marco

Street Outreach • Guatemala • 2022

Johny & Marco are brothers growing up in a notorious gang zone on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Although they have a supportive family, life has been tough. Recently, they’ve started attending activities with CONACMI and are now enrolled in school. They’re excited to succeed and learn skills they can take with them into the future.

Read Johny & Marco's story


Vocational Training • Guatemala • 2022

Zanthia is a mother of three, with a baby on the way. She’s survived over 10 years on Guatemala City’s streets and is determined to give her children a better life. When their father refused to recognise them, she sought help through our partner in Guatemala. Now, the whole family has their birth certificates and a future full of hope.

Read Zanthia's story