Nutrition in Guatemala

Guatemala has the highest incidence of childhood malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean and ranks sixth highest in the world. (USAID)

Malnutrition is a crisis in Guatemala with rates rising over the past few years due to hurricanes Eta and Iota, as well as the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. Refuge International is doing our part in fighting nutritional deficiencies by supplying vitamins and deworming medications to rid children of nutrient-depleting parasites in addition to supplying clean water to some of the areas it is needed most.


Vitamin Deficiencies

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 and result in low infant birth weight and begin a cycle of undernutrition in development. Vitamin 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.

Every adult, child or pregnant woman receives packets of daily vitamins to help combat these deficiencies.


How You Can Help Fight Malnutrition in Guatemala

Your financial support enables us to purchase vital vitamins and deworming medications for people we serve in Guatemala.

  • One dose of Albendazole costs only a few pennies and patients need to be treated just twice annually.
  • The cost to provide a one-month supply of daily vitamins to a child, adult or pregnant woman in Guatemala is less than $1.00 and make such a difference in supplementing their diets.
    • Children’s Vitamins = 51¢ per 30 tablets
    • Adult Vitamins = 45¢ per 30 tablets
    • Prenatal Vitamins = 81¢ per 30 tablets

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)

Protein-energy malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and parasitic worms all contribute to the major health burden in Guatemala and other developing countries.

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Parasitic Worms

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.

Every patient seen at our clinic receives a packet of Albendazole tablets for the entire family. Albendazole effectively treats hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Helping families say “Adios Lombrices” or goodbye worms!


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Annual Treatment Program

Refuge International has helped treat millions of children for worms, helping them to grow bigger and stronger.

Saying Good-bye To Worms

Launched in March 2007, the Adiós Lombrices program was a multi-organization collaboration project with the goal to implement a nationwide, school-based deworming program. Under the program 4,000,000 children, ages 2-15, received a dose of Albendazole. That’s almost the entire population of kids living in rural Guatemala! Albendazole effectively treats hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.

When the Adiós Lombrices program first began, there was no consistent dosing information for Albendazole use in children. Refuge International reached out to researchers at Yale University and worked to determine the proper dosing and frequency for successful treatment in children. The findings of this research were presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine. Studies have shown that school-based deworming programs are the most sustainable. Teachers provide education on good hygiene practices and can regularly administer medication. Even if kids are not enrolled in school, mothers are sure to bring their children to the school on the days medication is given out.

Generous donations from Rotary International, Kiwanis International, the Worm Project, Planting Peace and the Franconia Mission of the Mennonite Church and collaboration with the Guatemala National Ministries of Health and Education made it possible for millions of children to be treated in order to help them grow bigger and stronger.


Our Partners