Overcoming Child Malnourishment in Bolivia
Like so many other Bolivian children, a little girl named Estafany suffers from severe acute malnutrition—a distressing, life-threatening condition that kills as many as 50 percent of children who experience it worldwide. At the Don Bosco Center for Malnourished Children in San Carlos, Santa Cruz, Salesian missionaries have enrolled more than 150 mothers in a new program to help their children recover.
Bolivia is South America’s poorest nation, with the highest levels of income inequality on the continent. As a result, everyday Bolivians regularly struggle to find adequate nutrition, housing, healthcare and other basic necessities. More than 16 percent of children under the age of five experience stunting, and more than 2 percent suffer from wasting—two key indicators of malnutrition that, in Bolivia, are higher than average across Latin America and the Caribbean combined.
“We know that stunting, in particular, leads to significant adverse consequences later in a child’s life, including cognitive deficits, poor educational performance, and fewer opportunities for long-term, livable-wage employment,” explains Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Innovative, community-based nutrition intervention is therefore critical to children’s futures, and the future of Bolivia as a whole.”
When Estafany’s mother Maria found out about the program at the Don Bosco Center for Malnourished Children, she immediately signed up. As part of its new treatment model, she participates in training workshops on malnutrition and its prevention; childhood growth, development and health; and preventive medicine. “The goal,” says Fr. Gus, “is for mothers to practice applying what they’ve learned until it becomes a daily habit they can use at home to help their children.”
Estafany’s path to recovery shows that interventions like this can work. Over the course of the program, Maria was able to acquire the skills and strategies she needs to keep her daughter healthy in the long-term. “I was able to learn many things about nutrition and proper food for my daughter,” she says. “Plus everything I have learned, I can now teach the other mothers in my community.”
Thanks to the generosity of our good friends and our dedicated missionaries who make this program possible, Estefany, and many other children in Bolivia, will have a happier and healthier future.
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Learn more about our work in Bolivia.