Fighting Malnutrition in Guatemala: Pop Wuj + Timmy’s Partnership

Fighting Malnutrition in Guatemala: Pop Wuj + Timmy’s Partnership
July 5, 2017 Anna Butterbaugh

Timmy works alongside our local partner, Pop Wuj, in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala to address critical threats to the health of local communities. Guatemala, has the highest rate of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and  1 in every 2 children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished, according to USAID. In the communities where Timmy works in the western highland among the indigenous populations, malnutrition rates reach 80% (UNICEF).

Pop Wuj, a Spanish language school teacher’s cooperative founded in 1992, has served as Timmy’s local partner in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala since 2007.  The school was started as a joint effort among the teachers to fund community development projects, including medical services.  Dr. Meg Sullivan, who served as TGH’s Medical Director and a pediatrician at the Pop Wuj medical clinic from 2010-2012 recognized the urgent need for a targeted effort to combat the high prevalence of stunting (chronic malnutrition) among children in the communities served by Pop Wuj. Dr. Sullivan, who has served on TGH’s Medical Advisory Committee since it began in 2013, stated, “The 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday represents a critical period of growth and development. A lack of proper nutrition during this period not only presents immediate health risks but can also have irreversible long-term effects.  In a country that has the world’s fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition, we wanted to develop an evidence-based program to address this significant public health issue.”  She therefore worked closely with Pop Wuj to develop the Supplemental Nutrition Program to identify high risk children between 6-24 months and combine the use of nutritional supplements with education to help improve their nutritional status and their long-term growth and cognitive potential.

Since its inception in 2011, the Nutrition Program has greatly expanded in terms of its scope and communities served.  Each month Pop Wuj hosts a workshop for mothers and their young children enrolled in the program with an educational presentation around health issues such as hygiene, breastfeeding, healthy eating and self-esteem, among other topics.  During this meeting, the Pop Wuj medical staff and volunteers also weigh and measure the children, each of whom are then provided a month’s supply of a specific nutritional supplement indicated by the child’s current nutritional status.  Additionally, children who are currently sick can be seen and treated in the accompanying mobile clinic.