No child should grow up hungry but around the world hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. Children living in countries experiencing extreme poverty, violent conflict and drought are especially vulnerable.
Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America, and is among the six countries with the highest rates world-wide. Almost half of all Guatemalan children under the age of five are affected.
High levels of inequality and poverty put many families in Guatemala in a situation of acute vulnerability. Two-thirds of the country’s population of around 16.5 million lives on less than 2 USD/day. The indigenous population is disproportionately affected by a lack of resources as are women and girls, children and young people.
SOS Children’s Villages Guatemala supports these vulnerable families so that they can adequately care for and protect their children. SOS' family strengthening support includes measures to help curb malnutrition, as well as family development workshops, training community members to carry out early childhood development activities, access to literacy classes and educational activities to empower the community.
At the Family Strengthening Program in Santa Cruz del Quiche, mothers meet to discuss topics related to child protection, family life, positive parenting and community organizing.
The aim of the meetings is to provide families with knowledge and tools so they can build nurturing and safe homes for their children.
The program also helps families to receive food supplies, including staples like rice, beans, sugar, milk powder and cereals. Being able to count on complementary food supplies not only ensures that families have enough to eat, it also allows the families to use their own limited income for other essential expenses, like basic home improvements, medical costs and small investments to new income generating activities.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the SOS team follows up on the children’s development. Every three months, children are measured and weighed to be able to assess the child’s progress and identify cases of developmental delays.
Each family keeps a record of their children’s weight and height. When cases of delayed growth are identified, the SOS team works with the individual families to help them mitigate the risk of long-lasting effects of malnutrition.
When girls and boys between the ages of 0-5 get enough nutritious food and are engaged in early childhood stimulation, they are more likely to develop their motor skills, their language capacities, and their emotional and social skills.
All children deserve the best possible start in life and good nutrition plays a critical role in brain development and future learning outcomes. Getting enough food and stimulation in the early years, is therefore critically important for child's life-long journey of learning.