In Peru, 25 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. The problem is more pronounced in poor and rural areas, such as the mountainous Apurimac region in south central Peru, where many have difficult access to health services.
Chronic malnutrition can have negative long-term effects on a person’s health and on the productivity of a community. It can deplete babies and children of vital nutrients and stunt growth. This leads to increased susceptibility to disease later in life.
Malnutrition is not always linked to hunger; sometimes it is a result of a lack of understanding of nutrition and health. Despite government efforts to address the issue, more still needs to be done.
In addition to malnutrition, another pressing issue faced by Peruvian children is the exposure to violence, particularly domestic violence. This is rooted in the cultural attitude to authority in the home. Alcoholism and unemployment aggravate the issue.
Kusi Warma, which means ‘happy child’ in the local Quechua language, is an organisation at the frontline of efforts to eradicate chronic childhood malnutrition in the Apurimac region of Peru which has one of the highest rates in the country.
Kusi Warma has pioneered a scheme to train families, teachers and volunteers in nutrition and early childhood development. It selects locations based on need and works to build capacity there. When the indicators improve, KW hands the training model to local authorities.
In Ventanilla, an informal settlement in the mountains near Lima, Kusi Warma works to address violence and poverty by conducting workshops and training in schools.
Kusi Warma’s scheme has led to the drop of chronic malnutrition by 13.1 per cent in the Andahuaylas region. Pregnant women beneficiaries increased the number of health checks by 11.3 per cent, thus reducing the chances of malnutrition in their babies. To date 14 Kusi Warma centres have been transferred to the government.
In Ventanilla, studies have shown that mothers have improved their style of discipline and KW’s campaign against corporal punishment was being well received.
Photos: Paco Chuquiure/Stars Foundation