Many people don’t know that the overall rate of malnutrition in Guatemala is the highest in Central America and higher than many African countries. Primeros Pasos’ newest program, Nutritional Recuperation, started in January with the mission of supporting chronically malnourished children and their families through medical treatment and nutritional education, in turn improving children’s health and promoting healthy homes. The program is now in full swing and showing great progress. The nutrition team began the year by weighing and measuring over 150 children under the age of five in 11 public daycares in the Valley. The 25 most malnourished children and their families were selected to participate in the one-year pilot program.
Over the course of this year, the parents attend biweekly educational seminars, which include interactive activities about hygiene and health. These classes are well attended with over 90% participation rates, and feedback from the families is positive. Each family receives monthly supplement packets containing nutrient fortified beverage mix, protein-packed meat substitute, and chewable multivitamins. Recently, the families received a cooking workshop from a local chef, where the parents learned to prepare healthy meals, such as chinese rice with the meat substitute and a vegetable stew made with the fortified beverage mix. Each family was given a handmade, highly visual recipe book specifically designed for illiterate adults and new recipes will be added each month.
Progress is monitored through tri-monthly medical check-ups, monthly weigh-ins, and periodic parasite checks. All clinic visits are free in addition to any medication that they may need. The baseline medical exams revealed that almost every child had intestinal parasites. In most cases, children in the area receive enough daily calories, but often lack sufficient nutrients due to parasites and unvaried diets. Over the last few months, there has been noted weight gain in most children; they are looking healthier and parents are reporting higher spirits and energy. The caregivers at the daycares have also seen improved habits in hygiene from the participating families.
With the hopes of making the program more holistic, the nutrition team is performing a full needs assessment during home visits. These have proven invaluable in understanding the issues and challenges that the families face. Primeros Pasos is also in the beginning stages of partnering with various organizations to address basic needs that these families lack, such as water and sanitation.
Many people in the communities are learning about our Nutritional Recuperation Program through word of mouth and we have seen an increase in interest for participation. Primeros Pasos is working hard to improve the program and looking for ways to sustainably expand our reach and breadth in the Valley. To help this program grow, donate today.