I’d like to introduce you to Carin Nuñez, the nutrition program coordinator for one of Lutheran World Relief’s local development partners. Carin is passionate about improving early childhood health and nutrition in Chota Province, Peru. She grew up in the region and knows firsthand that improving nutrition for the youngest children provides a unique opportunity to shape a healthier future for the community as a whole.
She’s not alone in this belief. According to the 1,000 Days partnership, started by the U.S. State Department and supported by LWR, adequate nutrition during this critical window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. It can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.
When LWR partner Equipo de Desarrollo Agropecuario de Cajamarca (EDAC) first started working in Chota Province, it focused almost exclusively on helping farmers to grow food. Its agronomists hoped that bigger harvests (and more income) would naturally improve child nutrition. Unfortunately it didn’t, but the agronomists wisely recognized that fact and asked for help. That’s when Carin entered the picture.
Malnutrition is about more than not getting enough to eat, explains Carin. Things like dietary diversity, washing hands, access to healthcare and education are just as important. Another big challenge, says Carin, is building trusted relationships between mothers in rural communities and local organizations that can help them improve nutrition for their children. It takes longer, but Carin often goes door to door to meet mothers in person and establish trust – before hosting a training or information session.
Carin is also pioneering an approach that establishes early childhood education facilities (called stimulation centers) in community health clinics. The stimulation centers help develop infant motor skills and language acquisition and also deliver nutritional counseling and education to new mothers. The centers are so popular with mothers and children that they had to start assigning time slots so that all could participate. It’s no wonder that neighboring communities are now eager to expand the concept.
Through these activities, and many others, Carin and EDAC believe they will significantly reduce early childhood malnutrition in their target areas.
And they hope that U.S. Lutherans, by supporting LWR and participating in nutrition-focused development initiatives like 1,000 Days, will continue to increase public support for early childhood nutrition action in other parts of the world. (Learn how to get involved with 1,000 Days).
“A malnourished child is a child who will never be productive,” says Carin. “He is like a school drop-out for the rest of his life. This is not just a problem for the child but for society as a whole.”