A Global Malnutrition Crisis

Globally we are facing a malnutrition crisis, with the World Food Program reporting this month that the number of people at risk of famine has risen to 45 million, mainly due to the pressures of the pandemic and climate-related disasters. Rising food challenges disproportionately impact women and children. Around 1 billion women and children around the world do not have access to adequate nutrition.

Malnutrition is often fatal, contributing to 45% of child deaths. It can also be hidden; deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients can severely impact a child’s ability to reach their full potential by impairing physical and cognitive development.

Peruvian girl eating

Tackling Malnutrition in Peru

Peru has suffered heavily from issues of malnutrition. However, over the past decade, levels of malnutrition and particularly anaemia have steadily declined. Peru has received praise for their tackling of this issue. Development organizations cite Peru as an example of the level of commitment and the type of interventions needed across the globe to meet the UN’s famine and malnutrition targets.

However, while Peru has proven progress is possible, the country still faces chronic issues in the fight against malnutrition and inequality. Across Peru, malnutrition and anaemia rates have not declined evenly; progress has largely bypassed remote rural regions and the most vulnerable women and children. In Peru, children in rural areas are three times more likely to suffer from stunting due to malnutrition than those in urban areas.

CMMB has sought to address this crisis in Huancayo and Trujillo, two areas which suffer from poor nutrition and have been severely impacted by the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. There is a particular concern for the high levels of moderate anaemia, a condition related to malnutrition, in these regions. For example, while the countrywide prevalence of anaemia in children from 6 to 35 months is 40%, it was 53% in Huancayo by the end of 2020.

The First 1,000 Days Strategy

In addition to focusing on the regions severely affected by malnutrition, CMMB strategically targeted interventions at the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to maximize impact. The first 1,000 days is the most critical period for preventing malnutrition and decreasing the chances of children suffering permanent developmental setbacks.

A young girl eats out of a red cup as part of our nutritional support in Peru.

Surpassing Targets: Monitoring, Prevention, Training and Treatment

Addressing nutritional issues requires an approach that integrates monitoring, prevention, training, and treatment. Despite severe challenges created by the pandemic, CMMB has made great progress in all four of these areas.

  • Monitoring: It is essential to monitor children’s development closely to address malnutrition. This year, CMMB set a target of conducting anthropometric evaluations of 2,600 children. As of June, over 3,300 children have received such evaluations, far exceeding the annual target.
  • Prevention: Educating mothers and caregivers on nutritional issues and best practices for feeding their families is critical in preventing malnutrition. Therefore, an ambitious target was set to train over 2,000 mothers by the end of the year. CMMB are on track to exceed this target, having trained over 1,000 mothers by June this year, despite severe pandemic related disruptions in April.
  • Training: To create lasting change, CMMB trained community health care workers on nutrition and anaemia. The CMMB Peru team is already well on their way to achieving their annual goal, having conducted 5 of their target 8 sessions.
  • Treatment: This year, CMMB workers have referred over 1,000 malnourished children to health care facilities to ensure they receive timely care.

A community health worker providing care to a mother and her children during COVID-19 in Peru.

Addressing Anemia

Anaemia is a key public health concern for pregnant women and children in Peru. Malnutrition is a leading cause of anaemia, specifically insufficient iron in a person’s diet. Again, CMMB took an integrated approach, incorporating monitoring, prevention, and treatment strategies.

  • Monitoring:  CMMB aimed to carry out 2,000 haemoglobin screenings this year to identify children at risk of becoming anaemic. The CMMB Peru team already conducted over 3,000 screenings.
  • Prevention: Several well-known interventions reduce the chance of a child developing anaemia. These include full immunization, promoting exclusive breastfeeding, and providing deworming medication to affected children.This year, the CMMB Peru team has ensured over 4,500 under 5-years-old  have attended vaccination campaigns. Additionally, over 28,000 counseling sessions were carried out both virtually and face-to-face with new mothers to provide support, with emphasis on encouraging exclusive breastfeeding practices. Furthermore, over 2,000 children received deworming medication. Interventions during the pregnancy period of the first 1,000 days have reduced the number of pregnant women with anaemia from 54% to 37% in Huancayo. Such practices are beneficial to the mother and are also the earliest interventions designed to prevent malnutrition in children by ensuring babies are born healthy.
  • Treatment: Iron supplements are the most effective form of treating children with anaemia. CMMB set a target to deliver iron supplements to 2,000 children in need this year. As of October, over 11,000 children have received such supplements from CMMB.

The CMMB Peru team is on their way to achieving all their child nutrition targets by the end of the year. Despite severe challenges created by the pandemic, the significant impact offers hope for potential to end malnutrition in Peru for good.

Learn More About Our Work in Peru