Study Highlights Nutritional Gaps in Guatemala

Good nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life is crucial. This period, also known as the “Window of Opportunity”, is critical to prevent chronic malnutrition and its consequences. This study analyzes the dietary patterns of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under two years in order to recognize the nutrient “gaps”, take action to “close them” and support the government to reduce chronic malnutrition, which affects 46.5% of the children in Guatemala.

The study, which was presented on August 18th in Guatemala City, was the joined efforts of the Food and Nutritional Security Secretariat (SESAN), the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“This tool will allow us to better understand the nutritional situation and it will help in decision making and initiatives that contribute to the improvement of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life and prevent chronic malnutrition to achieve Zero Hunger”, said Miguel Barreto, WFP’s Regional Director in Latin American and the Caribbean.

Gaps Found

One of the gaps found is in the monotonous diet that rural families keep, according to the study. Their diet consists mainly of maize, low consumption of fruits and vegetables and little to no animal proteins. This unvaried diet causes nutrient deficiencies, especially among children during the first 1,000 days.

Lack of clean water and the poor short and long-term hygiene practices, were additional gaps that were identified, which cause diseases that intensify malnutrition.

In the opinion of the Regional Director, the good news is that the tools to improve the nutrition of these vulnerable groups exist. Possible actions include: educating on nutritional best practices (such exclusively breastfeeding during the first 6 months); the creation of easy access to fortified complementary foods and micronutrient powders for children between 6 and 24 months of age, cash based transfers; and community and/or family gardens.

The event counted on the participation of German Gonzales, SESAN Secretary; Carolina Siu, INCAP Director; Paul Townsend, CRS Representative; Mariko Kagoshima, UNICEF Deputy Representative; Mario Touchette, WFP Representative in Guatemala; and Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director.