The Islamic Post Blog

Mothers Fight Malnutrition in Bolivia by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 11:03 am
Filed under: February Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Safiya A. Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Quechua indigenous Indian women in poor, rural communities throughout Betanzos municipality in Bolivia are assisting health workers in combating the staggering rates of malnutrition. They are known as “Madres Vigilantes” or “Mindful Mothers” because they teach other women about child nutrition. According to Julia Velasco Parisaca and Wendy Medina of Inter Press Service News Agency, one of every two children in Betanzos suffers from malnutrition. The mindful mothers receive training that is sponsored by the UK humanitarian organization, Plan International, under the auspices of Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness.  The health program coordinator of Plan International in Bolivia, Aurora Gutierrez, explained that “Madres Vigilantes are trained about children’s growth, development and nutrition, and at the same time, they pass on this training to other mothers in their communities, while monitoring the growth and development of their children.”
Eva Juchani, a mindful mother from the community of Buey Tambo in Betanzos said, “Our task is to weigh and measure children from the time they are newborns until they are five, to see whether or not they are malnourished and whether or not they are gaining weight and growing. As madres vigilantes, we train other women how to feed their kids so that one day malnutrition will disappear.” They also teach how to improve eating and cooking habits”.
However, due to the extreme poverty in this region of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, the high protein foods that are grown there, such as fava beans, corn and wheat are sold to generate income and the people resort to processed foods such as pasta.
In July 2007, the government initiated, a Zero Malnutrition National Program aimed at improving the nutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five. Prior to this, the government operated a program called the National Programme for the Care of Children under Six (PAN), that focused on health, protection and childhood education as well as nutrition. The PAN centers provide children with four meals a day and two snacks. Unfortunately, the PAN program, operating in only 17 out of the 100 communities in the Betanzos municipality, only manages to serve about 20% of those most needy since it does not reach the children in the isolated areas, The government intends to remedy this situation by dispatching health care personnel, including Cuban doctors, to those lonely and neglected neighborhoods.


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