- 50% of Guatemalan children under the age of 5 suffer stunted growth due to improper nutrition: one of the highest percentages in the world. -USAID
- Guatemala has the highest incidence of children’s malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean, and ranks sixth highest in the world.
- Protein-energy malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and parasitic worms all contribute to the major health burden in Guatemala and other developing countries.
Malnutrition is the most significant risk factor for illness and death, particularly among pregnant women and young children. Since we began, Refuge International has recognized the importance of solving the malnutrition crisis in Guatemala as part of improving the overall health of its citizens and over the years we have built an effective network of people and partner organizations that extend our reach and impact. When Hurrican Stan hit in 2005, we distributed over 1 million meals with the help of USAID.
Micronutrient deficiencies are so widespread among Guatemala’s children that nearly 40 percent are anemic and 20 percent of children under the age of five suffer vitamin A deficiency. Zinc deficiency has also been identified as a public health problem. Zinc has recently been identified as a key element in infantile growth, which accounts in part for Guatemala’s high prevalence of stunting and the recurrence of infectious diseases.
Micronutrient deficiencies in pregnant women are also at critical levels. Every year, more than 20 million infants worldwide are born with low birth weight worldwide and approximately 3.6 million infants die during the neonatal period. More than one third of deaths among children are thought to be attributable to maternal and child undernutrition. Deficiencies in micronutrients such as folate, iron and zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E and riboflavin are highly prevalent and may occur concurrently among pregnant women. Multiple micronutrient supplementation in pregnant women is one strategy for reducing adverse pregnancy outcomes through improved maternal nutritional and immune status according to the World Health Organization .
In 2006, Refuge International's Vitamin Project provided over 1 million vitamins to children, women of childbearing age and adults. Each year, we continue to distribute multivitamins through our medical clinics.
Soil-transmitted helminth, or parasitic worm, infections are among the most common infections in developing countries and can impair nutritional status by causing malabsorption of nutrients, internal bleeding which can lead to loss of iron and anemia, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Reducing the burden of soil transmitted helminths through our Adios Lombrices program is a critical element in addressing malnutrition in Guatemala which is why every patient seen in our clinics is treated for worms.