The Mathile Blog
Posted on June 3, 2014 by Emilie Teuscher
Eliminating child malnutrition is not just travelling to a country, feeding the hungry children, and then leaving that country. Ending child malnutrition and hunger is about sustainability. Don’t get me wrong- going into a country and feeding hungry children is benevolent and a feel-good thing to do, but unless we strive to make it sustainable, those children will feel hunger over and over again.
Sustainability is something that many business owners strive for; wanting their business to become a living breathing organism that will live for years to come with an infrastructure built to last. Sustainability is what top athletes strive for; wanting to make sure they are doing the right type of conditioning and diet to prevent injuries to make their careers last. Sustainability means the ability to keep going and succeeding during the journey. In other words, for all of the athletes out there: it means a high-level of endurance.
So what does endurance look like for a non-profit organization like The Mathile Institute working to eradicate hidden hunger in places like Guatemala? Guatemala has a serious problem of chronic malnutrition in children. 69.5% of indigenous children under 5 have chronic malnutrition. Half of all Guatemalan children’s growth is stunted, and that number is as high as 80% in some rural communities. In some communities, the child anemia rates are around 70%.
When we dig deeper into why this problem of chronic malnutrition exists, we find it is not just the lack of food. It is also due to
local and traditional beliefs about nutrition (like feeding young children coffee or broth-based soups), access to clean water, hygiene, food security and the level of education of most nutritional caretakers.
So, to achieve the sustainability to end child malnutrition in a country such as Guatemala takes a lot of evidence, coordination of many factors, and patience. The Mathile Institute has successfully navigated their way toward sustainability. The first step is finished. They have developed a nutritional delivery mechanism, which in this case is Chispuditos®. Chispuditos® is the nutrient-fortified atol premix developed by The Mathile Institute. Chispuditos® is cost efficient, has a common local habit and practice, and is relatively easy for mothers to use in every part of Guatemala. The second step, proving its efficacy, has also been completed; this product has been scientifically proven to alleviate chronic malnutrition in children under the age of 5 years. They have also developed a strong evidence base demonstrating that Chispuditos® can work in small to medium-sized community-based settings. This has been no small task. Just as it sounds, it’s very complicated to collaboratively generate this kind of evidence in rural, hard-to-reach communities with local and national stakeholders and beneficiaries. It is just another challenge worth overcoming to be sustainable in creating solutions to end child malnutrition.
The Mathile Institute is now working with the National Guatemalan government to scale this program more widely throughout the country. This work includes additional delivery research programs, as well as effectively organizing supply to ensure sustainability. It is important for every man, woman, and child to live a life free from chronic malnutrition, but this initiative is also important for the Guatemalan nation as a whole. The country will benefit because these children will be able to reach their full potential as healthy adults; fully able to contribute to the society and economy of Guatemala.