Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Nutrition Program in La Victoria

Text and photos by Robyn Nielsen unless otherwise noted.

On Thursday morning Febrruary 18th, a group of medical students, staff and interns loaded up the van with medical supplies, toys, and education materials and set out to the small community of La Victoria located outside of Xela.

The community of La Victoria
Outside of the house where the clinic is held
La Victoria is one of the three communities that the Pop Wuj Nutrition Program serves each month. The program is setup to combat the staggering problem of malnutrition in Guatemala, particularly within the rural, young, indigenous populations. According to the World Food Programme, Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world with 49.8% of children under five suffering from chronic malnutrition, 80% of whom are indigenous children. Malnutrition in children not only damages a critical period for physical and mental development, but also greatly impacts productivity, likeliness to drop out of school, and susceptibility to illness, all of which are problems that last a lifetime.

The Pop Wuj Nutrition Program currently serves families in the communities of La Victoria, Buena Vista, and Llanos del Pinal and works with children up to three years old, providing nutritional supplements, vitamins, medical care and health education to mothers and their children.

The day started with welcoming returning mothers and babies and registering two new pairs into the program. One by one, children were weighed and measured and had their data entered into the database in order to track their progress. Shortly after, Carmencita gave an informational lecture to all the mothers about the importance of breastfeeding during the first six months of infancy and general healthy practices for early childhood nutrition. Fellow intern, Amalyah, and I followed with an interactive nutrition activity for the mothers where we prepared a cut out of a large olla (pot) sectioned into five food groups and placed food cards in their respective food groups. We included information on how to have a balanced diet and how often to eat certain foods based on this information.

Carmencita giving an informational lecture
Presenting the nutrition olla (photo by Pop Wuj Medical Spanish student Erin Martin)
After handing out bananas to the kids and warm atol de elote (a popular hot corn beverage), mothers with sick children got the chance to meet with medical staff and students for diagnoses. Before leaving, mothers got to stock up on nutritional supplements such as Nutributter, ManĂ­+, and vitamins, as well as medications if needed. All and all, it was a great day and I think we all left with greater knowledge about nutritional practices and techniques on how to combat malnutrition in Guatemala. I enjoyed meeting the mothers and seeing the drive that they had to improve the lives of their growing children and I am excited to participate in more nutrition days in the future.

Mother and child meeting with Dr. Herman 
Happy mothers and babies

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