Sep 18, 2017

Back to School Giving

Dear Friends,

It’s back to school time! For many of us, preparing our kids for another year of school is an exciting time that’s full of possibilities: learning, family, friendship, joy. But for many children in rural Guatemala, school is more of a dream than reality. Chronic illnesses like malnutrition keep kids at home, and keep their parents from earning enough to send them to school. With the prevalence of malnutrition, struggling to stay healthy is one of the biggest barriers to education that these children face.

Fortunately, primary school enrollment in Guatemala has increased substantially in recent years. However, only four out of ten children who start will finish primary school—indigenous girls, on average, only attend school for three years. If a child has the opportunity the attend school, the effects of chronic malnutrition take their toll. Malnutrition decreases children’s ability to concentrate, it lowers their productivity, makes them susceptible to illness, and can even cause a loss of intellectual quotient, which are irreversible effects that last a lifetime.

We want to support children’s education by giving them a chance at a healthy future. We are collaborating with communities and schools to bring children high-quality healthcare—giving children a chance to be healthy, grow strong and lead lives of amazing potential. But we need your help.

This month, we have an incredible opportunity for you to participate in the work Maya Health is doing. One of our longtime supporters has pledged $25,000 in matching fund during the month of September! This means any donation you make during the month of September will be matched dollar for dollar. For first time donors, our donor will match two dollars for every dollar. All the way up to $25,000!

Together we can make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable—take the example of Wilson in the photo below. Wilson is a 20-month-old boy who has fallen into the cycle of chronic malnutrition. Fortunately, in the short time that he has been in our program, Wilson has already gained 3 pounds and grown 3 centimeters! We are confident that Wilson’s improved diet and nutrition will help him to grow and develop healthily so that in a few short years he can attend preschool with the other children in his village.

By supporting childrens’ health we can get kids back in school and help keep them there. With your contribution, children will get the quality care they need to lead healthy, productive lives with futures full of possibilities.

With gratitude always,

The team at Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance

Jun 21, 2017

Appreciating our Community Health Workers

Karyn protecting herself from the rain!
Karyn protecting herself from the rain!

Dear Friends,

Our staff members on the ground in Guatemala are the engines that keep us going and make our work possible. They spend hours a day, rain or shine, traveling via crowded buses and moto-taxis to reach our patients. Today I’d like to introduce you to two of them!

Meet Karyn, one of our nutrition technicians and complex care coordinators. Karyn tells us, “I love my job because through my work I can reach people that no one else dares to see and treat diseases that the health system rejects and doesn’t treat. I like that at Wuqu’ Kawoq we are innovators and pioneers of many things, like our nutrition program, 10 years ago no one was talking about this but now our work is spreading to other organizations who are changing their methodologies to make a difference in the lives of children.” 

We also love what Irma, another one of our nutrition technicians, has to say about her job. “Each child is a story. The children in our program live within the means that their parents can provide, and although we encounter difficult and sad situations, the children continue to fight and recover little by little. Happiness, attentiveness, and love towards our children can also be the medicine that they need to be well and grow up healthy. I am thankful for the opportunity to live these beautiful experiences with the families in our programs, and especially with the children.”

We are pleased to report that over the past four months we have delivered water filters to over 120 families. Drinking contaminated water can have devastating consequences for malnourished children, inducing diarrhea and counteracting the effects of nutrition supplementation. Upon delivering the filters, our nutrition technicians engage parents in a discussion about how water becomes contaminated and what we can do, through good hygiene and using strategies such as water filtration, to protect and improve the health of our families. We believe that empowering families with education is just as important as equipping them with tools like water filters. Before receiving filters these families were either drinking and cooking with contaminated water or spending valuable time and energy boiling their water. Now they have a clean, reliable water source in their home. One of the mothers tells us, “I thank you with all my heart for the filter. It’s for my kids, but it will benefit me too.”

Thank you for your continued support. Without your donations, the work of community health workers like Karyn and Irma would not be possible. Thanks to you we are able to improve the lives of thousands of children and their families across Guatemala.

With gratitude,

The Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance Team

Learning about water contamination
Learning about water contamination
Using the filter for the first time
Using the filter for the first time
Mar 23, 2017

Update on our Child Malnutrition Research

Dear Friends,

As we told you in our last report, we spent much of last year collaborating with Grand Challenges Canada on a clinical research study on the effects of chronic malnutrition in child development.  Our researchers are currently working hard to publish this data and make it available to other global health workers, researchers, and nutritionists worldwide, but we wanted to share some of the preliminary results with you.

By now, you’re familiar with Wuqu’ Kawoq’s work on ammeliorating chronic malnutrition in infancy, and you know why we think it’s important.  There is fifty years of longitudinal data supporting the simple fact that a well-nourished child is much less likely to die of infectious disease during childhood and is much less likely to be chronically ill as an adult.  We also know that children who are chronically malnourished score lower on verbal reasoning tests and, for each standard deviation a child falls below “normal” on a growth chart, we can expect a subsequent drop in IQ. 

Chronic malnutrition during infancy has far-reaching implications for the health and well-being of that child for the rest of their life.  We feel that this is unjust— especially since chronic malnutrition is so easily treatable.

Data from our pediatric growth clinic suggested that intensive home-based approaches to treating chronic malnutrition could have meaningful nutritional and developmental outcomes.  If you’ve been following our work, you’ve seen for yourselves that this is often the case, as you’ve watched children improve over time with ongoing assessments and nutritional interventions.  

There is a large emphasis in global health on preventing stunting, but less emphasis on treating stunting in patients who have already fallen below normal on their growth chart, mainly because the window of time for successful treatment is comparatively small (“the first thousand days”), and because, on a wide scale, treating stunting is more expensive than preventing it.  However, in places like Guatemala, where more than 85% of children under five in a community are often already stunted, focusing on prevention simply isn’t enough.

We had three major hypotheses going into this project:

1) the diets of stunted indigenous Guatemalan children are of low-quality, and they can be improved with intensive in-home counseling by community health workers of the child’s primary caregivers

2) intensive in-home counseling will have positive effects on the growth of stunted children

3) intensive in-home counseling will have positive effects on the development of stunted children

The study found hugely significant improvements in both dietary diversity and dietary quality in the children’s diets following intensive home-based intervention, and we believe this may help explain the steady improvements we noticed in the growth and development of the study participants over time.

 

We learned a lot from this work.  Perhaps most importantly, it helps back up our argument that treating chronic malnutrition— as opposed to just preventing it—  is both feasible and justifiable.  

 

With your help, we will continue our efforts and apply what we have learned in our ongoing interventions and efforts to work with patients and their families to help lift the lifelong burden that is chronic malnutrition in childhood.  

 

With gratitude,

 

The Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance Team 

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