At right: Xela AID Director Luis de Leon with recipient family of food stuffs.
Chronic malnutrition is the principal nutritional problem in Guatemala, and is most prevalent in rural areas, and especially found in indigenous homes where mothers have not received formal education. It is measured and can be observed through age-height comparisons. More than 43% of all Guatemalan children are malnourished, the highest rate in all of Latin America. Chronic malnutrition among infants tops 60% in more than 108 municipalities, including San Martin Sacatepequez where Xela AID is based.
The challenge of malnutrition however is not one only of physical health and wellbeing, but impacts all aspects of a child's life, including learning: the condition predicts diminished intellectual development and a decreased capacity to learn and to be productive.
Xela AID's approach to addressing malnutrition is three-fold: to provide affordable health care which focuses on prevention, improve education, and to broaden economic opportunities. While the project has been measurably successful in its health and education efforts, considerable work still needs to be done to improve the local economy and to expand the model.
To prevent malnutrition, pregnant women receive vitamin supplements as a part of care. Vitamins are also dispensed when cases of malnutrition are detected at Xela AID's Clinic, and in severe cases, the organization responds by providing nutritional foods stuffs such as rice, beans, and eggs.
In the years to come, Xela AID will address these challenges by placing more emphasis on developing sustainable small businesses, and making available safe, affordable loans.