Child Health & Malnutrition
Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the Western hemisphere. It can often exceed 80% and leads to stunted growth and brain development. We will begin doing assessments of the growth status of children starting at the age of 6 months to determine the incidence of stunted growth. Micronutrient distribution will also commence with the malnutrition project currently in deployment phase.
We teach the value of vitamins and proper nutrition and their role in preventing birth defects and providing healthy babies. We also make birth control available to the mothers. Family size is a very real problem, with many mothers having more than 6 children and no access to birth control. Over half of the population of Guatemala is under the age of 16.
We are training midwives in prenatal care and deliveries using international midwife materials. Midwives from the US have held two training classes in Guatemala in September 2011 and February 2012. We have worked in conjunction with the Ministry of Health to provide delivery instruction to the midwives. In both November and February 35-40 midwives were trained by local Seattle nurse midwives. To learn more, please read our “Education Subsection.”
We distribute toothbrushes to the children in the schools. Each classroom gets a toothbrush rack for all of the children, and the teachers ensure that the brushes are used properly. We also apply fluoride varnish to deter tooth decay. We teach that soda pop and sugar candies cause tooth decay.
Composting toilets have been built and are being maintained by families in the villages. Once the compost is matured, it can be used for gardening. This is a new project that has been underway for over the past 6 months. Furhtermore, we’ve held classes in water sanitation.
Clinics are held with each team trip and patients are treated for both acute and chronic diseases. Infectious diseases, including diarrhea, TB, malaria and dengue fever, account for a large amount of morbidity. A de-worming program has been started in the villages. Children receive medication along with Vitamin A. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma are frequently identified and treated with long-term medication. Villagers are being trained in care of acute and chronic medical problems. We leave medications with the lay health workers in each village each time we travel to the villages. We developed a fluoride varnish program that provides fluoride varnish to children every 6 months.