US Congresswomen Diane Black and Renee Ellmers visit the Nutri-Salud Project in Guatemala

On February 17, 2015, two members of the US House of Representatives visited the rural community of Tizate in western Guatemala, where the USAID/Community Health and Nutrition Project (Nutri-Salud) is working to reduce chronic malnutrition among children under five years of age.  CARE organized the visit for Representatives Diane Black of the 6th Congressional District in Tennessee and Renee Ellmers of the 2nd District in North Carolina as a learning tour about how US foreign assistance is helping to transform the lives of women and children. The Representatives were accompanied by a CARE board member and several CARE staff, journalists from CNN en Español, and staff from USAID/Guatemala, USAID/Washington and the Nutri-Salud project. The visit to Tizate gave the Representatives a chance to see firsthand how auxiliary nurses and families are working together to prevent chronic malnutrition.

With strategic guidance and funding from USAID, Nutri-Salud is implemented by a collaborative team, led by URC, with members from Mercy Corps, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), and The Manoff Group.  Nutri-Salud contributes to the objectives of the US Government's Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future (FTF), as well as the Guatemalan Government's Zero Hunger Pact. The project's goal is to improve health and nutritional status of rural, indigenous Maya communities.

Nutri-Salud focuses on the first 1,000 days—that is, the 270 days of pregnancy, followed by the 730 days between the birth of a child and his or her second birthday.  The right nutrition and care during this 1,000 day window can have a profound impact on a child's future. Babies who are malnourished in utero have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are more likely to face lifelong cognitive and physical deficits and chronic health problems. For a child under the age of two, malnutrition can be life-threatening, weakening the immune system and increasing susceptibility to death from common illnesses, such as pneumonia and diarrhea. As part of its integrated efforts to prevent malnutrition, Nutri-Salud strengthens essential maternal, neonatal, and child health care and family planning services at the community level.  The project engages communities in active solutions to their health care needs through community mobilization and linkages to local governments.

In Tizate, US Congresswomen Ellmers and Black visited the rural health post, where they learned about the clinic-based services and outreach activities focused on the 1,000-day window of opportunity. The Congresswomen learned how Nutri-Salud's home visit and counseling program, the "Wheel of Practices for Better Living," is helping pregnant and lactating mothers to adopt healthier practices related to nutrition/feeding, care, household hygiene, and use of health services.

The Congresswomen had the opportunity to visit with two mothers of infant children, chatting with them about what have they learned through the Wheel Program.  One of the mothers described how she had worked with her husband and mother-in-law to develop an emergency plan, in case she had needed to go to hospital for a complicated birth.  Luckily, she delivered her baby at home with a traditional birth attendant, but she was prepared to evacuate if the need had arisen.  Another mother discussed how she had gone to the health post for routine check-ups during pregnancy, and was now taking her three-month-old son to the health post each month for the growth promotion and monitoring sessions. She and her family had also adopted other key practices, including routine hand washing and covering the latrine.

US Representative Diane Black (R-TN) meeting a new baby in Tizate, Guatemala. Photo by Josh Estey/CARE.
US Representative Diane Black (R-TN) meeting a new baby in Tizate, Guatemala. Photo by Josh Estey/CARE.
Date 
March 06, 2015
Authors 
Patricia O'Connor, Nutri-Salud Chief of Party
Regions/ Countries