In 2014, 50 million children under 5 were acutely malnourished and 159 million children had stunted growth. Under-nutrition contributes to nearly half of all child deaths.
Stunting - a sign of chronic under-nutrition and largely irreversible - starts before birth and is caused by poor maternal nutrition, feeding practices and food quality, and frequent infections. It is associated with delays in cognitive and physical development and poor school achievement in later life.
Plan International’s parenting and community health programmes strengthen caregivers’ capacities to prevent malnutrition through ensuring adequate feeding for boys and girls – including exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, dietary diversity and micronutrient supplementation.
We support community health workers and primary healthcare providers to manage children that are moderately and severely malnourished. In many contexts, nutrition interventions are linked to programming for access to potable water, basic sanitation and improved hygiene habits.
Our child nutrition work supports Sustainable Development Goal targets 2.1 and 2.2, to ensure children’s access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food and to end all forms of malnutrition, including stunting and wasting.
Case study: Tackling malnutrition in Guatemala
With 48% of under-5s suffering stunted growth, Guatemala has the highest chronic under-nutrition rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and sixth highest in the world.
The figure rises to 70% of under 5s with stunted growth in rural, highland Mayan communities. Most of the population in these communities live in poverty, with the family’s staple diet consisting of beans, rice and corn.
Subsistence farmers struggle to increase production given the mountainous terrain and vulnerability to climate change which has left some areas with 4 consecutive years of an extended dry spell.
Improving child nutrition
In this context, Plan International Guatemala’s Early Childhood Development programming has a strong focus on nutrition and healthy growth. In 2015 more than 4,600 mothers were trained on infant and young child feeding, the importance of growth monitoring, vitamin and micronutrient supplementation and food and nutrition security.
Around 7,000 mothers, fathers and/or caregivers participated in awareness raising activities emphasising other key practices for their children’s healthy growth, including timely vaccination for disease prevention, and household/community hygiene practices.
Household food security
In 77 communities located in 5 municipalities of Baja Verapaz, a project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank is being implemented with nearly 2,000 families to increase household food security.
Women’s groups have been trained and supported to set up community nutrition committees and collaborate with food production and cooking demonstrations. Participating families report improved access to more diverse and nutritious foods and improved feeding practices for pregnant and lactating women and young children. They show high levels of knowledge around the importance of breastfeeding and personal hygiene.
We have learned how to get organised
“This is the first time we have formed a committee to help the people to have better health, education and nutrition… we have learned how to get organised, we are taught how to grow crops, from the moment we start until we finish,” says Gregoria, a mother from Purulhá.
Plan International has also responded in drought-affected areas in partnership with the World Food Program and the Ministry of Health, providing temporary food assistance to 2,000 families.