Malnutrition rates are a huge problem in rural areas of El Salvador today. Families do not have the resources to provide their children with adequate nutrition, causing increased rates of underdevelopment, fatalities due to dengue fever and malaria, and a host of other issues. Globemed at Amherst College and Pastoral de la Salud in El Salvador have come up with a comprehensive project to combat the host of issues caused by child malnutrition in a series of villages by focusing on the critical age of zero to five years old.
Money donated goes straight to Pastoral de la Salud, where it is divided to perform several crucial tasks. In early May a diagnostic was done in the area around Teotepeque, El Salvador, to identify ten villages with the highest need, where the project would be implemented. In late May community health worker volunteers were selected from these villages and brough to San Salvador, where they were trained to lead workshops of their own to primary caregivers of children on nutritional food that can be found with limited resources. The workshops went well, and the community health workers are eager to run their own workshops. We hope that this well have a compounding effect - that the community health workers will present to their own villages, and that this information will continue spreading through Teotepeque and the surrounding communities.
The next steps will take place in late June and early July. Over the next couple weeks, scales and other recording instruments are being set up in the ten villages, and community health workers will be trained to work at health houses to record the weight of every child in the village under five years of age. This will hopefully work for many years to identify children who are at-risk of malnutrition and associated health risks, so that they can be brought to the attention of health workers and even nurses and doctors at bigger clinics.
In July, aided by four Globemed at Amherst members, construction of ten community gardens (one in each village) will begin. These gardens are intended to be a trial-run, maintained by the community as a whole, to see if the model works and can be used in other communities. The model for the gardens itself are a work in progress - if any donors have ideas about ways in which they can be made sustainable, Pastoral de la Salud would welcome ideas.
Thank you so much for your donation to our Child Nutrition Projects - Mercedes Tejada, one of the five coordinators of Pastoral de la Salud, sends the following message: "We so appreciate the donations you send. The difference they make to our work and the people who benefit from our projects is more than we can say. A big hug to everyone who works so hard for Pastoral." [translated from Spanish]. We hope you will continue to check back as our project continues!
As of February 16th, Pastoral de la Salud has been able to successfully begin the Child Nutrition Workshops throughout zones in rural El Salvador. So far, the staff at Pastoral have began the process of sweeping through numerous communities in a diagnostic process to detemine which areas are most in need of the workshops.
The work will begin with educational sessions with the residents of the 10 communities with whom Pastoral will work. These workshops will cover everything from how to prepare healthy meals to how choose and care for crops that will thrive in the given environment. The workshops will focus specifically on the nutritional value and agricultural care required by chaya, sorghum, and ojushte (a flowering tree plant with a meaty nut that can be ground into flour). These plants can survive relatively easily in the area and hold a high nutritional content, making them excellent choices for sustainable planting.
After imparting the requisite knowledge on how best to sow these crops, the workshops will focus on developing a schedule for community members to tend to the gardens. The schedule will account for people's personal time constraints and challenges, in order to make sure that the gardens are closely tended without becoming a burden on the residents. Eventually, the staff at Pastoral will monitor the progress of these nutritional workshops through a bi monthly collection of child weight information.
Many thanks for all of your generous support! These crucial steps toward eliminating chronic child malnutrition in El Salvador would not be possible without help from all of you. Check out our links below to stay involved with GlobeMed at Amherst!
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Director of Partnerships, GlobeMed at Amherst College