Malnutrition: The Invisible Crisis

Nutrition Guatemala

Few countries in the world suffer the consequences of childhood malnutrition like Guatemala. Just 1,000 miles from the U.S. border, the Central American nation has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition on the planet.

Today nearly half of all children under the age of five in Guatemala are permanently stunted as a result of malnutrition, making them significantly smaller, weaker and more prone to illnesses than their well-nourished peers.

The impact of childhood malnutrition echoes throughout a person’s life. While the causes of stunting are complex, often it’s a result of poverty, lack of resources, poor education and early marriage. As CNN has pointed out, “even though the country produces an abundance of fruits and vegetables, many crops are exported or destined for urban markets, never ending up on the tables of impoverished rural families.”

WFP USA’s Rick Leach and Thousand Days’ Lucy Sullivan recently wrote about their experience meeting a mother of three in this lush, green country:

“When she introduced them, we learned that the smallest of the two [older] children was not, in fact, the youngest. Despite being the oldest child, he was several inches shorter than his younger sibling. Poor nutrition during his early years had left him stunted—for life.”

Not only do mothers and children need enough food. They need the right food, the right nutrients, the right water and the right health practices. The first 1,000 days—the period of time from a mother’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday—is crucial to getting this right. As the CNN story explains:

“If chronic malnutrition occurs during that time frame, the damage is largely irreversible. Two-year-old children with their entire lives ahead of them might suffer permanent impairment. Christian Skoog, UNICEF’s representative in Guatemala, calls the consequence a ‘life sentence.'”

That’s why the World Food Programme and its friends and partners are working hand in hand to reach mothers and children with the right nutrition, the right education and the right training so they can live a life of potential and purpose.

Because when you empower a woman, you feed a generation.