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Relief from Childhood Anemia and Malnutrition
Childhood malnutrition has plagued the La Arena area of Peru for years. However, a nutritional project helped bring the people of La Arena solutions.
Empty Bellies in Peru
In the Piura region in northern Peru lies the district of La Arena. This area was settled and developed in a territory of extensive dry and sandy landscapes where the inhabitants of the zone survive off agriculture, fishing, livestock, mining, and trade.
Despite these industries, many community members in this area are some of the poorest in the country due to a lack of resources and opportunities. This lack of resources has generated innumerable health problems which disproportionately affect children.
Particularly, malnutrition and anemia are a constant threat to the quality of life and well-being of children living in poverty. Difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and dizziness are only a few of the symptoms anemic children constantly fight, with their effects leading to poor educational performance and prevention of normal physical growth.
Building Trust in Local Communities
Since 2019, CHOICE Humanitarian has been working with and through local authorities to improve the quality of life for children under five years old and pregnant women. The project’s main objective is to reduce levels of anemia and malnutrition among the population of eight localities in La Arena by providing sustainable education, training, and resources.
While developing genuine bonds of trust with the communities, the CHOICE team in Peru worked to determine the levels of anemia and malnutrition among children and mothers. From there, the team conducted trainings on healthy eating practices and childcare, as well as hosted demonstration sessions where mothers were taught how to prepare nutritious dishes with available resources.
CHOICE also worked in collaboration with family groups to install 1,500 family gardens. The sandy and unfertile land came to life with more than 90,000 kilos of organic vegetables including lettuce, culantro, spinach, beets, cabbage, and radishes. Communities developed the skills of soil preparation, manure generation, and pest management, among many others.
In addition to crop production, the installation of chicken coops provided opportunities for chicken production. This provided food for family consumption and a means for additional household income. Thanks to the collaboration with the National Agricultural Health Service of Peru, these communities were also trained in veterinary skills and certified in production processes.
Miryam Janet Vilchez Iman, a young 23-year-old mother from the town of Loma Negra in the La Arena district of Piura, was thrilled to be participating on this project. She recognized the impact it would have on her two young children under the age of five.
Part of her responsibilities included supervising the production of the gardens as well as the chicken farms. In addition, Miryam learned how to prepare healthy food to improve nutrition for her children. Later, she was able to instruct other women in the community about good food practices, hygiene, and childcare.
This community leadership role not only allowed her to develop new skills, but she also empowered other women to provide more effectively for their children. Miryam expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to be involved in benefiting her sector of the community.
“I was asked to be in charge of supporting the technical team—monitoring certain activities within the project—and I immediately accepted,” Miryam said. “The idea of being able to work for the well-being of our children filled me with emotion and enthusiasm, as we don’t normally get this kind of support.”
Malnutrition Rates Decreasing!
When reports were compiled in September of 2021, the data showed that malnutrition rates in these communities had dropped from 22.8% to 12.1%, and anemia cases had gone from 8.3% to 0.8%. At that time, more than 1,000 children under the age of five had been directly or indirectly impacted. Additionally, community members continued to increase in their confidence with leadership and learning opportunities. Because of these efforts to reduce malnutrition, a path out of poverty is being built with hope and self-reliance.