NUTRITION ISSUES in Indigenous Communities

NUTRITION ISSUES in Indigenous Communities

Nutrition is a fundamental pillar in the development of a human being.

That is the key fact underpinning all Mayan Families initiatives in Nutrition & Health throughout 2020 and which continues to this day.  Last year, we reached a crucial milestone with the new alliance that was set up with public health services, including the Ministry of Health and the Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security, which saw Mayan Families being appointed to the role of specialists case management for this pilot project in the prevention and treatment of Malnutrition.

The first step is the identification of cases of malnutrition or cases of high vulnerability deriving from the situation with Covid and its fallout.

The beneficiaries of the program are selected via a dual process of socioeconomic evaluation alongside a medical nutritional check-up. Our findings reveal that 68% of the families interviewed register Moderate Food Insecurity, while 24% suffer Severe Insecurity and only 3% score in the Slight Insecurity range. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that a full 95% of the Indigenous families in the communities in which we work have difficulty accessing nourishment that is secure and sufficiently varied to provide the range of nutrients needed for healthy growth and development.  This is a stunning realization that needs serious attention, expertise and investment.   

Another alarming statistic concerns the level of chronic childhood malnutrition, with 39% being severely affected, and 42% being moderately affected. Only 19% of the children that we have screened so far have a normal height-for-age. This means that the majority of children in the communities that we reach do not have sufficient nutritional reserves in their organs  as a consequence of deficiency in calorie protein intake over an extended period.  

All the indications are that this is a deep-rooted issue, with its origins found back in each child’s prenatal development period.

Equally alarming is the evidence not only of nutritional deficits (manifesting itself as severe malnutrition) but those of excessive intake (overweight) with strong and persistent indications of this resulting from poor nutritional habits as a consequence of limitations in social, economic and intellectual development inhibiting choice and the opportunity to best benefit from local resources. As in so many regions in the world, unhealthy, processed, sugar-dense food is more available, less expensive, and commercially promoted over the healthy fruits, vegetables and protein sources grown locally (which are mostly exported). 

What is vital here is to teach, promote  and then maintain a process of behavioral change directed towards the use of resources that are within the reach of families. This can only be achieved through constant education, a variety of communication and medical checks-ups.

by Elizabeth Perez, Director of Programs