By Daniela Philipp.
There is alarming news on malnutrition from Guatemala:
- 49.8% of children between 3 and 59 months of age suffer from chronic malnutrition (this is higher than in any other region in the world!).
- 29.1% of pregnant women and 47.7% of children between 6 and 59 months have anemia.
- 47% of indigenous women and 53% of non-indigenous women were overweight or obesity in 2009. This is a respective 19% and 15% increase since 1995!
These were the findings of a newly published study, “Interventions and policy options for combating malnutrition in Guatemala,” financed by the IDB and presented by University of Emory professor of international nutrition Dr. Reynaldo Martorell at a seminar organized by the IDB’s Social Protection and Health Division on April 16, 2012.
What do the findings from these study mean? That Guatemala’s health sector will be facing huge challenges in the future.
The coexistence of several problems–undernutrition (chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies) as well as obesity and related chronic diseases—represents a multifaceted burden for the health system and requires integrated and effective interventions. For example, one of the recommendations in the study is to provide a package of basic, essential interventions to all pregnant women, infants and children under age two in Guatemala, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The goal of these interventions would be to take advantage of the so-called “window of opportunity” in the first one thousand days of life, to achieve the maximum impact on children’s health. Interventions should encompass: (i) the promotion of good breastfeeding practices; (ii) water, sanitation and hygiene; (iii) immunizations; and v) the use of zinc and oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea.
What will these interventions do? Nothing less than give all Guatemalan children the resources they need for healthy growth.
Daniela Philipp is a consultant in the Social Protection and Health Division of the IDB. Daniela’s work focuses on health, nutrition, and early childhood development.