Child malnutrition is a severe issue in Latin America and the Caribbean. Food security is fragile in countries such as Guatemala and Haiti, presenting enormous challenges for charities wishing to help. Through constructive partnerships Food For The Poor ensures children receive proper nutrition and have a fighting chance at recovery.
How critical is good nutrition to children?
The importance of good nutrition for children in developing countries cannot be overstated. For these boys and girls, who don’t always get enough to eat, nutrition can mean the difference between life and death.
A child suffering from malnutrition may experience stunted growth, delayed development, and an increased risk of disease. These consequences can have long-lasting effects on a child’s physical and cognitive abilities, which can ultimately affect future opportunities and success.
But good nutrition is more than just having enough food. It’s about having access to a variety of nutritious foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy growth and development. In many developing countries, access to nutritious foods is limited due to poverty, lack of education, and limited infrastructure.
Haiti and Guatemala have high
Guatemala has the highest percentage of malnourished children in Latin America. About one in two children under age 5 face chronic malnutrition. More than 12% are underweight (Source: UNESCO)
For the Caribbean, the country with the most malnutrition among children is Haiti. Almost 1 in 4 children have chronic malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition can be deadly and can impair the development
of cognitive skills. (Source: United Nations)
Sadly, in 2023, about 115,600 children in Haiti were expected to suffer from wasting, which is defined by the World Heath Organization as low weight for height. This compares to 87,000 in 2022. The reason is increased gang violence in Haiti.
Partnerships help malnourished children in Haiti and Guatemala
To address these challenges, charities are working to provide families with the resources they need. Food For The Poor has been feeding malnourished and hungry children since its inception in 1982. In 2023 alone, the charity provided 118,500,000 meals to children and families.
Food For The Poor strives to resolve hunger and malnutrition by giving aid to those most in need. The distribution of food packages in Haiti, which takes place on a regular basis, and in Jamaica as well, helps feed vulnerable children.
“Food For The Poor works directly with churches, schools, and other ministries and institutions to identify those in greatest need and to provide support,” said Susan James-Casterly, Project Manager in Haiti and Jamaica.
An effective method of helping malnourished children is through partnerships. Teamwork is critical. For Food For the Poor, an important partnership aimed at fighting malnutrition in Haiti is with Feed My Starving Children, which provides MannaPack rice meals.
MannaPack Rice® is a formula created to meet the nutritional needs of children with a mixture of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in a blend of rice, dehydrated vegetables, and soy nuggets. All that is needed is boiling water and it becomes an instant meal.
The packs are full of essential nutrients that provide everything needed to maintain good health and fight malnutrition in children. This incredible food can prevent severe malnutrition in vulnerable children, including kwashiorkor and marasmus, two types of malnutrition that can occur due to lack of protein.
Kwashiorkor and marasmus represent the primary areas of severe protein/energy undernutrition. Kwashiorkor mostly results from insufficient protein intake, while marasmus encompasses insufficient macronutrients, including carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
The dry packs are easy to ship and distribute. They are key to fighting child malnutrition in Haiti.
In addition to these kits, the organization sent 102 containers of aid in one month alone and does regular food distributions around Haiti.
“They are really happy to receive the food,” said Maria Cassandra Brutus, Food For The Poor-Haiti’s Director of Distribution. “It’s really difficult to buy food.”
Children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition receive nourishing food through an innovative food program operated by Hormel. Since 2011, more than 21.4 million 3-ounce cans of Spammy™ have been provided to destitute families. The shelf-stable turkey spread is fortified with zinc, iron, B vitamins, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Packed into small tin cans, it is easy to ship and distribute throughout nutrition centers that Food For The Poor supports in Guatemala.
“Hormel has been a tremendous blessing to the people of Guatemala,” said Mark Khouri, Food For The Poor Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “It was there years ago when they proposed the idea of producing a fortified turkey spread targeted to malnourished children. Today, that program continues to help malnourished children in Guatemala.”
The importance of partnerships in addressing malnutrition
Partnerships are critical to getting nutritional aid to children suffering from malnutrition. Instead of an organization bearing the burden alone, partnerships mean much more can be accomplished.
“Partnerships, whether it be local, regional, national, or international, are crucial to all of our projects because it allows us to increase our level of impact exponentially instead of trying to do everything ourselves,” said David Langle, Latin America Project Director for Food For The Poor.
A prime example of this is the Nurturing Our Future partnership between Food For The Poor and Minuto de Dios in Colombia. The program aims to nurture the physical and mental health of children in nine Colombian cities through nutritional supplements and educational resources. An additional component was added this year on food security. Minuto de Dios undertook the task of teaching families the basics of home gardening.
“At FFTP, we understand our limitations. We know we can’t save everyone, but like the saying goes, two heads are better than one,” Langle said. Minuto de Dios brought a “plethora of connections in-country,” he said. “When other local partners heard about our project, we welcomed them with open arms because of what they wanted to bring to the table. We not only accomplished our objectives, but we also added some complementary components, thanks to the additional local partners.”
Malnourished children can have a brighter future
By working together, we can make child malnutrition a thing of the past. Join us in this crucial mission and be part of the solution today.
When organizations join forces to combat child malnutrition in the Caribbean and Latin America, there is immense potential for driving positive change. Pooling resources, expertise, and networking with local in-country partners means these partnerships can create the synergy needed to undertake the multifaceted challenges of malnutrition more effectively. Through a shared commitment to ensuring every child’s right to proper nutrition, vulnerable children can have a brighter and better future.