Stunting Epidemic in Rural Guatemala

The girl on the left is 5 years old. She was adopted from Guatemala and has grown up in the U.S. She has received good food and medical attention since she was born.

The other little girl was born and raised by her parents in Tierra Linda, Guatemala. She is also 5 yrs old.

Example of effects of stunting

Two 5-year-old girls, both were born in Guatemala.

Example of stunting with 5 year old Guatemalan girls

Left: girl raised in US; Right: girl raised in Guatemala

You can see the difference in the height and weight. The shorter 5-year-old girl has not received good food or medical attention (probably no medical attention would be more accurate) since she was born.

Several charities help preschool children with feeding or snack programs, targeting 4-5 year olds. But, actually it is a little late to provide good nutrition. The 5-year-old has growth stunting, and she will never be able to catch up. Worse is that brain development and IQ can be effected. When malnutrition starts at age 6 months to 3 years (the most important years for growth and development), a child will never recover from the damage done. This is stunting from malnutrition. It is not genetics that indigenous Guatemalans are short in stature. It is estimated that 80% of rural Guatemalan children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition.

The sustainable solution to malnutrition is to educate mothers on what to feed their children, especially during the critical years – 6 months to 3 years. Mothers don’t know that a corn tortilla softened with Pepsi or coffee is not food for infants. Programs need to teach mothers to select healthier foods like eggs, avocado, bananas, soft cooked vegetables like chaya, carrots, and sweet potatoes, chicken soup, beans and rice, soft white cheese, oatmeal or Incaparina. Children (and parents) need to be educated to avoid sodas, candies, Tortrix chips, and junk foods, and instead eat fruits like frozen coco-banana or papaya, peanuts, yogurt and juices. To help break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition, the key is always education.

Miracles in Action is currently developing and implementing nutrition and agriculture education programs, and we are testing and promoting chaya, an indigenous, spinach-like vegetable. If you would like to support our efforts to provide sustainable solutions to malnutrition in Guatemala, you can target your tax-deductible donation to our Nutrition Projects.

Contribute online, or mail your check to:
Miracles in Action
2244 Park Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45206

Thank you,
Penny Rambacher, R.D. (Registered Dietitian)

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