Guatemala (MNN) — Extreme poverty casts a shadow on much of Central America. But it's especially dark for portions of Guatemala where the extreme poverty also has a direct impact on nutrition. The question is: what's being done about it?
President of Medical Teams International Bas Vanderzalm says malnutrition is a major problem. It's not necessarily that children are starving, "but these are children who have not had the food that they need when they are young. As a result, they are stunted in their physical growth and also limited in their mental growth."
Vanderzalm describes where they live. "Many of these children live up in the mountain areas of Guatemala. They are from indigenous communities and have been really marginalized in the country. As a result, in some of these communities about 70% of the children are chronically malnourished."
Medical Teams International has been working in the region, and Vanderzalm says early intervention is key. "We can make a difference in the first two years of the child's life; that's a critical difference that can affect that child for the rest of his or her life."
Vanderzalm says it's easy to help prevent malnutrition. Providing residents with clean water, teaching them how to grow vegetables, helping them with proper handling of food, and teaching them proper ventilation techniques for their stoves to keep the smoke out of their homes are just some simple ways to help. "Just those simple things that we take for granted in our own lives could help reduce malnutrition tremendously."
Since Medical Teams International is a Christian organization, Vanderzalm says, "Pastors of the churches are often involved in helping to lead the efforts."
For as little as $20, you can help a family. "We'd love to have people make a gift of $20 or $40 to touch the life of a child in Guatemala. That's a child we may not know personally, but a child that is known to God, precious to God. He loves them, and I know He cares about the. And He wants us to do what we can to show this love to these children, as well."
Medical Teams International sends teams regularly to Guatemala. Vanderzalm says, "If people are wanting to be involved in this–either by joining a team or supporting our work financially, I hope they'll go to our Web site." Click here to get involved.