The last several weeks have been especially difficult in Guatemala, with COVID cases surging, hospitals overwhelmed, and vaccination rates still below 3%. The recent ouster of the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor is fueling mistrust of the government, with the unfortunate side effect of shaking confidence in government issued COVID vaccines. (Which in any case remain scarce.) These fragile conditions continue to take a toll on jobs and make it harder than ever for families to afford and access food.
To meet these challenges, we are stepping up food deliveries and telemedicine. In addition, our nutrition teams continue to make regular visits to support families of children with chronic malnutrition.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in the field with some of these remarkable teams. In almost every case, we saw progress from previous visits in terms of weight and height, but in one instance, a young boy named Josué was losing ground because he had diarrhea that left him listless and disinterested in eating. Our tech provided some medication to clear his infection and reviewed hygiene measures with his mom, so hopefully the next visit will show good results!
I was struck by the genuine connections between our team and the families. It was clear that there was mutual respect and that the nutrition techs were offering very welcome and needed advice that made sense in the context of each family's situation. It’s encouraging to see the trust and progress that comes with building relationships with patients over time in their own languages and communities.
Thank you again for making these lifesaving efforts possible!
Childhood malnutrition and stunting has been a focus for Wuqu’ Kawoq since the beginning. Despite the immense efforts and successes thanks to our supporters and staff, the obstacles imposed by COVID-19 on communities and the economy make the fight long from over.
Since COVID began, we have ramped up our efforts against malnutrition by supporting over 1,000 families with vitamin and nutritional supplements.
One child who began receiving nutritional support from Wuqu Kawoq in January 2021 is Nayla. She is 17 months old and is the fourth child in her family. Her family received 30 eggs, 30 supplements and two pounds of beans from Wuqu Kawoq every month during their five month nutrition intervention.
Our nutrition team tracked Nayla’s weight and height to make sure she was receiving effective care and so her family could see her progress.
Our work together was a success, her mother learned the best combinations of food and meal timing to help Nayla improve her height and weight.
The vaccination rate is inching up in Guatemala - roughly five percent of the population has received at least one dose - offering promise for improvement in the coming months. In the meantime, we will continue to partner with families to address surging malnutrition, particularly in rural areas, to help build a healthier future for Guatemala’s children.
We are thrilled to share that thanks to the hard work of our Medical Director, Waleska López Canu, every member of the Wuqu’ Kawoq team has had their first Covid vaccination! She worked tirelessly with the Ministry of Health to make this happen so that we can continue our work in the field at full strength. Our next priority is getting our patients in rural Guatemala vaccinated. During our nutrition visits, we offer information about the importance of vaccines and address any of our patients’ concerns about safety to make sure they’re ready once vaccines become more widely available.
We’re also excited to share the launch of our new study, Saqmolo’ (“egg” in the Mayan language Kaqchiquel). We are contributing to global research investigating impact of adding a daily serving of eggs to standard nutrition care. The results in other settings have been mixed. For example, in Malawi, the egg intervention had no overall effect on child development. This study will provide new evidence to help make future nutrition interventions as effective as possible.
These important developments, along with your support, help strengthen our work to reverse the course of the many children struggling with acute malnutrition in rural Guatemala.
Pictured below is Fátima, who became an orphan at 11 months when her mother, who was raising her alone, died from complications of diabetes, a condition that she could not afford to treat. Fátima is now under the care of her aunt, Doña Manuela, who also has an 18-month-old daughter. As a result of her mother’s illness and death, Fátima is severely undernourished, but she’s getting better. We have been working with Doña Manuela to space out breast feedings and supplement her own nutrition so that she is able to feed both girls and raise them as healthy sisters.
We are so grateful to you for making this work possible!
We are excited to share this great new BBC radio piece in which 17-year-old Rosa Angelica, from the community of Sololá, explores Guatemala’s halting progress toward the UN development goal of Zero Hunger. She interviews our Nutrition Program Manager Karyn Choy and Executive Director Anne Kraemer about how it came to be that families living amidst fields of crops have little access to nutritious food—and Guatemala, a major agricultural producer, has one of the highest rates of chronic child malnutrition in the world.
They also talk about our comprehensive approach to working with families and communities to reverse malnutrition. “This isn’t something you can solve overnight;” Anne says. “It’s not something that you can fix with one pill. So the minimum time that we spend with a family doing education, providing them with food supplementation, medical care, is six months.”
In a commentary reflecting on his 15 years of work in this field, our Chief Medical Officer Peter Rohloff underscores the importance of cultivating broad-based efforts to transform the social and economic forces driving child malnutrition while also keeping each individual child and family in view.
He writes: “It is tempting to think of big problems like stunting only in aggregate, as national or global issues to be addressed incrementally. But the enteropathy, growth faltering, and developmental challenges that the child you see today in your clinic is a very real and urgent suffering. That child's caregivers may have few resources at their disposal and perhaps little hope that things can get better.”
Thank you for making it possible for us to make real progress across communities and partner with families to find hope in the fight against chronic malnutrition!
Providing life saving supplies in rural Guatemala.
With the economy and health system still struggling in the grasp of COVID, Guatemala is now moving into storm season. Hurricanes Iota and Eta have not only taken lives but also have wiped out crops and food reserves. So our nutrition program is more critical than ever.
Thanks to our supporters, we continue to scale up our efforts to fight hunger, delivering food and other essential supplies to the families most in need in our communities. Families like Doña Juana’s, who are doing their best to feed their children in their critical early years. The local health post had advised Doña Juana that her baby was dangerously small and underweight, but with her husband out of work due to COVID, the family had little other than tortillas to feed their son. Our community health workers supplied the family with a month of groceries, along with suggestions for accessing locally-grown herbs and vegetables.
These deliveries not only bring desperately needed sustenance; they also provide an important opportunity for us to connect with our patients and identify other health concerns that we can address.
We recognize that, particularly this year, there is enormous need around the globe, and that many of our supporters are experiencing their own hardships. For that reason, we are especially grateful to each of you for your generosity and partnership!
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