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Journey to Guatemala: Understanding chronic malnutrition

Blog post by FH blogger Sarah Matheny

We left Guatemala yesterday.

Even though we’ve returned to our usual routines of grocery shopping, laundry catch-up, swimming lessons and lots of cuddling time with the girls, there are so many things I won’t be able to ignore about my time in Guatemala and specifically the time spent in the village of Segois with Olga and her community.

The one issue that nags most persistently at my heart is the crisis of chronic malnutrition.

It is not an exaggeration to call the problem a crisis.  Not only is one out of every two children in Guatemala currently suffering from chronic malnutrition, but even when a child with chronic malnutrition is fed and restored to a healthy weight, if he or she was not treated prior to five years of age, the condition will severely detrimentally impact them for the rest of their adult lives.  The brain development that occurs during the first five years of a child’s life is key.  When a growing brain is not adequately nourished in those early years, it will never be able to grow to its fully intended capacity.

Photo by Monique Aparicio

The same holds true for physical stature.  The diminutive height and weight of the Guatemalan children was overwhelming to me.  I would ask a child who looked like he or she was 6 or 7 how old he or she was and would be shocked to find out that he or she was in actuality 11 or 12 years old.  I had to keep reminding myself that our own sponsor child, Olga, is 8, the same age as Gigi.  When in reality, she was physically smaller than our Lulu, age 5.

To give you an even more graphic representation, this photograph shows a line indicating the minimum height deemed “acceptable” for a 9 year-old child.  None of these Guatemalan children even come close.

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Sarah Matheny is an FH blogger who started blogging to share the joys, successes and laughs that come from raising a family with a love of veggies and a love of God. She’s published a New York Times best-selling memoir cookbook, “Peas and Thank You,” and continues to feed her readers their daily recipe and/or glimpse into life with the Peas at peasandthankyou.com.