by Leslie Lugo, Associate Director for Program Support, International Development Group and Sarah Whitmarsh, Communications Specialist, URC
June 14, 2012
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded Bethesda-based University Research Co., LLC (URC) a new five-year, $32 million cooperative agreement aimed to improve the nutrition and health status of women and children in Guatemala. The country has the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin America and the Caribbean and the fourth highest worldwide.
The Community Nutrition and Health Care Project (CNHC), which begins this month, will be one of USAID/Guatemala’s flagship projects to support two priority areas of the US Government’s Global Health and Feed the Future Initiatives: 1) improving access to and quality of health services in Guatemala, with an emphasis on reducing inequitable health outcomes among rural and indigenous populations and 2) preventing and treating chronic malnutrition and under-nutrition for children under two years.
With partners SHARE, Mercy Corps, The Manoff Group, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, and The Cloudburst Group, the project will work to:
URC has worked in Guatemala for the past 15 years, supporting the Ministry of Health to improve the quality of care in several technical areas, including maternal, newborn, and child health and family planning.
Caused by an improper or insufficient diet, malnutrition has irreversible effects on children’s physical and cognitive development, often causing stunted growth and other medical problems and ultimately reducing their earnings potential. Half of Guatemalan children under five are chronically malnourished.
Compounding the problem are socioeconomic inequalities among indigenous and rural populations. With lower incomes, less education, and more difficult access to health care than urban and non-indigenous populations, Guatemalans living in the Western Highlands region often face more severe malnutrition.
According to the Ministry of Health, the rate of chronic malnutrition among indigenous children is almost double that of non-indigenous children. Mortality rates in children under five are also higher among rural and indigenous children, with the most common causes of death—diarrhea and respiratory infections—strongly linked to malnutrition.