Freeing Bolivian Children from Malnutrition

A Word of Caution: This story contains material that may prove to be uncomfortable for some people unfamiliar with the realities of living conditions of people in developing countries.

Bolivia is ranked at or near the bottom of Latin American countries in terms of poverty, education, life expectancy, health, sanitation and malnutrition. According to the World Factbook, education in Bolivia is of poor quality and, even then, rarely available in rural areas. When any form of education is available in the country’s remote regions, children often have a difficult time staying in school due to sickness or the need to help their parents with their subsistence farming. They spend the majority of their waking hours trying desperately to feed, clothe and house their families. In the mountainous Toro Toro region, every day is literally an uphill battle for its native people.

Food for the Hungry (FH) teams stationed in Bolivia understand the depth of the pressing needs of these impoverished people. Having seen what they have seen, together they feel God’s calling to “Free Bolivian children from malnutrition.”

A task much easier said than done.

The Ramirez family: Teofilo, Guimer, Lucia and David.

The Ramirez family: Teofilo, Guimer, Lucia and David – an FH story of success.

Remember, malnutrition does not necessarily mean that people are starving. Rather, it typically means that people are missing substantial nutrients in their diet. In many cases, the missing nutrient is protein. That is precisely the situation in the community of Rodeo Escalon in the Toro Toro region. Estela Ramirez told FH, “As a child, my parents could not provide me the health and nutrition as they are now able for my younger siblings. That is why I could not finish school. I felt I was unable to study. Now I know that the cause was malnutrition suffered as a child.”

If the problem of a lack of protein in the diet is not adequately addressed in time, young children are likely to suffer irreversible developmental losses, including low IQ, inability to concentrate, and failure to grow to a full, mature stature.

The unusual solution: Guinea Pigs.

A baby Guinea pig.

A baby Guinea Pig – cute now, essential later.

As distasteful as this may sound to those of us who are often blissfully unaware of the plight of others like the Ramirez family, the source of protein best-suited for them is now available through the help of FH. They, and others in their small community, now enjoy a regular diet of guinea pig meat. What American children adopt as pets, Bolivian children need as a food source.

It is important that we understand that guinea pig has been a common, dietary staple, not only in Bolivia, but also in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and neighboring countries near the Andes mountains for centuries. Even in the major cities Asado de cutpe (roast guinea pig) is common fare in local restaurants.

When Guinea Pigs are raised healthy they can multiply quickly!

When Guinea Pigs are raised properly, they can multiply quickly, providing food and income to the Ramirez family!

Guinea pigs are easy to raise, they multiply rapidly, and their meat is high in protein and low in fat. Estela’s younger brother, Guimer, is nine years old. He is in charge of raising the family’s “herd” of guinea pigs. Though he finds them adorable as any young child would, he also knows that his family would suffer without the meat that his animals will provide.

FH started training the Ramirez family to raise guinea pigs in August 2014. They started with four. Now they have more than thirty.

What they do not keep for their own use can be sold for twice as much per pound as beef. Since the cost of maintaining these tiny creatures is minimal, families who raise them are able to raise funds for other needs.

The Guinea Pig's house.

The Guinea Pig’s abode.

The idea of eating guinea pig may make some people a bit squeamish. Most who read this will probably never eat one. But there are families who are raising healthier children in Bolivia because guinea pig is now a part of their regular diet. These are children you are helping to survive as you support FH.

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