In Peru, mothers teach others about child health and nutrition

Child stunting resulting from malnutrition is on the decline in Peru. World Vision is contributing to this lower rate through an innovative program that trains women to teach mothers about the importance of child health and nutrition.

Story and photo by Yadira Pacheco, World Vison Peru.
Published April 9, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

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

Guides train fellow mothers about child nutrition

UNICEF research from 2011 shows that rates of stunting among children under 5 has 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.

Guide mother reaches fathers, too

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.

Learn more

Read about Child Health Now, World Vision’s global campaign to end preventable child deaths.

Two ways you can help

Thank God for guide mothers like Reynalda. Pray that this life-saving knowledge about child nutrition would continue to spread throughout Peruvian communities and beyond.

Make a donation to the Survive to Five Challenge. World Vision’s Survive to Five™ Challenge seeks to end preventable deaths of children under age 5 by targeting severe malnutrition and disease. A gift of any amount will triple in impact to help save children under 5 from death by preventable causes.