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Peru: Teaching mothers about malnutrition

©2011 Yadira Pacheco/World Vision
Reynalda, 36, leads cooking demonstrations and health education classes in Peru

From World Vision, by Yadira Pacheco:

Good news about hunger — really? Headlines of drought, famine, and food crisis seem increasingly frequent. But, in Peru, good news exists.

UNICEF research from 2011 shows that rates of stunting in children under 5 have dropped to 24 percent. Just two decades earlier, the rate was 31 percent.

World Vision is contributing to this lower rate through an innovative program that trains women in communities to become “Guide Mothers.”

Reynalda, age 36 and mother of three, is one of these women. Eight years ago in her rural community in the central Andes, more than 50 percent of children under 5 suffered from malnutrition.

“My own children were malnourished,” recalls Reynalda.

Her oldest son, age 11, is permanently stunted, but her younger children are now getting a new chance.

As a Guide Mother, Reynalda was trained in nutrition, health, and leadership.

“I realized that nutrition is not always a matter of money, it is about knowledge too,” she says.

For more than three years, Reynalda led small workshops on nutrition at her home.

Pregnant women and mothers with children under 5 gathered for cooking demonstrations and health education. She routinely made follow-up home visits to those who needed extra support and to check their children’s health.

Yet local women and children weren’t the only ones whose lives were touched by Reynalda’s workshops. Her husband, Julio, also gained new insight.

He confesses the previously common attitude in his community, “We didn’t value [children]; the meals were mainly for men. If we had meat, the biggest portion was for the fathers. Now, we’ve learned to give them [children] priority, to communicate better and respect them.”

Families have also learned to grow vegetables in their gardens, and raise guinea pigs to have sources of protein and vitamins.

Reynalda’s youngest child is 5-month-old Leysi.

“I didn’t expect it, but when Leysi was born, I had opportunity to raise another child in a better way. She is growing up healthy because now I know things that I didn’t know before,” says Reynalda with a smile.

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