End Infant and Child Malnutrition in Guatemala

by World Food Program USA
A mother and child enjoy Vitacereal(TM) in Guatemala
A mother and child enjoy Vitacereal(TM) in Guatemala

Maricruz Ramos, a 24-year old new mother, lives in Jocotán Province, Guatemala – a region with a 72.8 percent chronic malnutrition rate among children in the first grade. Thanks to WFP’s provision of Vitacereal(TM) during and after her pregnancy, though, Maricruz and her young daughter are both very healthy. In 2009 alone, 6,740 Guatemalan women and children have benefited from the reception of Vitacereal and WFP health programs.

Unfortunately, Maricruz is not alone. Female and child health is of particular concern in Guatemala, especially in the highlands. Despite rapid urbanization, the population remains largely rural – a major cause of concern because national health services only have the capability to reach about 60 percent of the country. While the national rate of undernutrition for children under 5 is already the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean (49.3 percent), the number of Guatemalan children not receiving adequate food baskets is a staggering 70 percent in the rural highlands.

Throughout Guatemala, The World Food Program is working to quell undernutrition by providing school meals, food for work activities, and mother and child healthcare. WFP is also taking local procurement a step further in Guatemala, though, via the Purchase for Progress Initiative. Through this groundbreaking program, WFP purchases food from local farmers and provides them with the tools and knowledge necessary to become active and successful players in the agricultural marketplace. WFP then uses the food purchased to feed local hungry populations.

350,000 Guatemalans are currently assisted by the important efforts of WFP, but in a country of over 13 million, there is much more we can do. With the help of generous supporters like you, WFP can continue to expand its reach across the country. Caring individuals like you allow us to expand further into the highlands, provide meals at more schools, reach out to more expectant mothers, and buy food from more local farmers. Thank you for your support!

Gregoria Sanchez waits with her two children to receive their monthly ration of a fortified-maize soy meal called VitaCereal™ from the World Food Program (WFP). She walks several miles from her home for the ration because she knows it makes a difference in her children’s health.

The eight-month-old baby that Gregoria is carrying is chubby, alert and healthy. Her other son, who is two and a half, looks healthy at first glance; but if you compare the heights of the two children, you notice that there is very little difference between them.

“We had no VitaCereal™ when I was pregnant the first time. I don’t think they had started giving it out. But I ate it quite often when I got pregnant again and then when I was breast feeding,” Gregoria says, as about 25 other young mothers look on and nod their heads.

All the mothers gathered at the La Ceiba maternal health center in Guatemala’s Alta Verapaz region agree that eating VitaCereal™ while pregnant means babies emerge bigger and healthier. And if you carry on supplementing your diet with it after the birth, your breast milk is thicker and more abundant.

With the fourth highest rate of chronic undernutrition in the world, 49.3 percent of Guatemalan children under five are undernourished. Rates are even higher in rural regions where the indigenous population is concentrated: seven out of ten children under five are undernourished. And 22 percent of Guatemala’s total population is undernourished.

There are several reasons behind these rates: health services, water and sanitation systems, and adequate food sources are most prevalent in rural areas. Poverty reaches 70 percent of the Guatemalan population in rural areas.

The World Food Program in Guatemala supports 350,000 people through programs like School Meals, preschool feeding, and mother and child healthcare. WFP supports 50,000 vulnerable households in remote areas to create and preserve their natural assets and thus improve their livelihoods under Food For Work and Food For Training activities.

WFP operations also provide nutritional food to 86,000 children and adolescents and 12,000 children at day care centers in rural areas. WFP support helps provide basic health services and supplementary food to 125,000 pregnant and lactating women and children under age five to reduce the prevalence of chronic undernutrition in the most affected areas of the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Guatemala depend on the World Food Program for their nutritional needs and healthy survival. In order to continue WFP’s life-saving programs and provide for those severely affected by chronic undernutrition, WFP needs further financial support. Generous, caring individuals like you enable those families suffering from the effects of poverty to survive with WFP’s assistance. Thank you for your support!

Several months ago, stay-at-home mother Catarina Raxuleu could not afford to feed her family of six. She had deep concerns for the nutritional needs of her four children. Her husband, a coffee farm worker, made only $3.25 a day and Catarina was unable to provide a second income as she had to care for the children. They struggled every day just to feed their growing family.

With WFP’s support, Catarina began eating Vitacereal™ when she was pregnant with the most recent addition to her family, Pasqual. Vitacereal™ is a fortified blend of maize, soy, and micronutrients provided by WFP to pregnant and nursing mothers in Guatemala, as well as to children from the ages of 6 months to 3 years. Vitacereal™ is locally produced and is specifically designed to increase birth weight, facilitate normal physical growth and development, and help provide a foundation for a healthy life. "There [was] a big difference between my pregnancies," says Catarina. "Pasqual was a healthy weight when he was born, and I am definitely producing more breast milk than before." Today, Catarina continues to serve Vitacereal™ to Pasqual twice a day.

Guatemala is one of the most food insecure countries in Latin America, threatened by extreme weather conditions and more than three decades of civil unrest. Almost 57 percent of its population lives under the poverty line. While this dire situation affects all aspects of society, women and children tend to suffer the most. Mothers are increasingly unable to provide much needed food to their young children and often cannot breastfeed their infants due to malnutrition. As a result, almost 50 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which is the highest rate in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In response to this crisis, WFP is providing Vitacereal™ to 120,000 children and 40,000 pregnant and nursing mothers in Guatemala. This food assistance helps children avoid irreparable physical and mental damage that can result from malnutrition during pregnancy and infancy.

Currently, WFP is working to expand the program to thousands more people but needs the financial support to do so. Individual contributions such as yours have made a powerful impact on WFPs ability to assist those in Guatemala who need it the most. It is only through this aid that Friends of the World Food Program can provide so much financial assistance to WFP to continue to achieve its goals for 2008. Thank you for your generous support!

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Organization Information

World Food Program USA

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http://www.wfpusa.org
Project Leader:
Meredith Slater
Development Associate, Friends of the WFP
Washington, DC United States

Retired Project!

This project is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Support another project run by World Food Program USA that needs your help, such as:

Find a Project