Tackling Malnutrition in Guatemala

Guatemala, a stunningly beautiful country renown for its volcanoes, picturesque colonial cities and rich cultural heritage is beset with a wide variety of social, economic, educational and health problems. One of the most serious issues is malnutrition, as the country suffers from the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, ranking below only Yemen and Afghanistan. For a country with such fertile land, this sorry statistic speaks volumes about the level of corruption, inequality and uphill fight faced by this country’s poor population. This problem is especially acute amongst Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan population, which make up over half of the country’s population. Due to their political exclusion and economic marginalization, over 75% of these Mayan people live below the poverty line, and as a result, often have trouble feeding their children. The ridiculously high fertility rate here does not help matters; without access to family planning or contraceptives, indigenous women give birth to an average of over 6 children and half of Guatemalan women are mothers by the time they reach 19 years of age!

Watch Field Report

Though it requires decades to reverse these worrying trends, Cause & Affect Foundation is committed to using our resources to create positive change today in the most direct manner possible. C&A Founder Adam Carter spent the last month volunteering with several children’s hospitals and non-profit organizations in the country and decided upon a course of action.

First, we worked alongside a local center that provides food and shelter for homeless families that have nowhere to turn and no other source of nourishment. A local contact has agreed to further assist this shelter by providing breakfast for the 80 -100 people that visit on a daily basis. (This comes to $600 a month or $20 a day, which is about a quarter per meal).

Second, we assisted Casa Jackson, a clinic for malnourished babies from the region. Babies suffering from malnutrition are referred to the clinic by social workers, orphanages or parents unable to provide enough food for their babies. Babies are brought in and treated for their ailments and put on a nutritionally-balanced diet, being fed twelve times a day to regain their strength. Once they have overcome their malnutrition, they are returned to their families, who are them counseled about proper nutrition and childhood rearing. In assessing the project’s needs, we were alerted that the clinic was in dire need of 4 items: powdered milk, diapers, an industrial blender (to make the formula) and a food processor (to blend fruit and vegetables). Cause & Affect immediately went to the market and purchased all four for a total of $500.

Thirdly, we traveled to the remote rural Mayan communities surrounding Lake Atitlan. In association with Feed the Dream and Los Amigos de Santa Cruz, two NGO’s that do amazing work addressing pre-natal nutrition and care, feeding centers and community gardens, Cause & Affect came face-to-face with families in dire need of help, such s the ten children that were orphaned when their mother recently died in childbirth. We discovered that there is no system in place for families like this facing food emergencies to obtain assistance in a timely manner. In order to address this pressing need, we created the Cause & Affect Emergency Malnutrition Fund with a seed grant of $500. Our local partners at Los Amigos de Santa Cruz will be distributing powdered milk, fruit and vegetables to these especially desperate families and reporting back to Cause & Affect on their progress.

By tackling the pressing issue of Guatemala’s malnutrition from three angles, we have shown just how far a small amount of money can go. In this case, we accomplished the three objectives with only $1,000.

As we say, “Find a CAUSE & AFFECT a change. It’s that simple.” Special thanks to Phi Theta Kappa’s Illinois Region - their contribution was well-spent! Please visit website and blog for more information of make an on-line donation here.

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