Guatemala is one of the countries with the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and even worldwide. Additionally, high levels of inequality and poverty put many families in Guatemala in a situation of acute vulnerability. Two-thirds of the country’s population of around 16.5 million lives on less than $2.00 per day.
The indigenous population is disproportionately affected by a lack of resources, as are women and children. Santa Cruz del Quiché is among the areas with the highest percentage of indigenous children (87.3%) and has one of the highest prevalence of malnutrition in children under five in Guatemala (69%).
This photo essay shows how SOS Children’s Villages Guatemala is supporting vulnerable families in Santa Cruz del Quiché so that they can adequately care for and protect their children. Currently there are 240 families participating in SOS family strengthening programs in the region. Family strengthening support includes measures to help curb malnutrition, family development workshops, training community members to carry out early childhood development activities, access to literacy classes and educational activities to empower community leaders and foster communities’ organizational skills.
Mothers are working in groups to discuss topics related to child protection, family life, positive parenting and community organization. The aim of the activities is to provide families with knowledge and tools so that they can build nurturing and safe homes for their children, support their children’s development and take care of their needs.
Diego Morales is one of the SOS community workers. He knows each family and monitors the improvement in the family’s development, periodically visiting them in their homes.
“We encourage both parents to attend parenting skills workshops. In those workshops, we discuss different topics related to their capacities as parents, always focusing on child protection. We teach them about the rights children and young people have, or about the different forms of violence. We approach various topics so they can build their knowledge,” Diego Morales says.
To help curb malnutrition in children, families receive food support and have access to nutrition workshops every month. Workshop topics include household hygiene, prenatal care, vegetable and herb gardening and how to prepare nutritious meals. “It is not enough to tell them what to prepare and give them a recipe, which some parents cannot even read. We help them put into practice through demonstrations,” says Diego Morales.
Almost half (46.5%) of all Guatemalan children under the age of five are affected by malnutrition. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the SOS team follows up every three month’s on each child’s development to monitor growth and help mitigate the developmental risk of malnutrition.
Strengthening families also means strengthening children’s cognitive and emotional development, preparing them for a life of future learning and healthy relationships. When girls and boys between the ages of 0-5 are engaged in early childhood stimulation, they are more likely to develop their gross and fine motor skills as well as their language capacities, and their emotional and social skills.
Verónica, 28, lives in a small house with her three children and her husband in Santa Cruz del Quiché. She joined the SOS family strengthening program in 2012. After she saw first-hand the benefits of early childhood development activities with her own children, she volunteered to become a trained early childhood development promoter in her community.
Women and girls are more likely to be excluded from education in Guatemala. Families in the SOS family strengthening programs commit to sending their children, including girls, to school. Women who do not know how to read and write receive the opportunity to gain these essential skills. SOS Children's Villages Guatemala works with CONALFA, a government entity, to provide access to literacy classes.
Sponsor a Family
Become a Family Sponsor today and provide vulnerable families with the tools and support they need to keep children with their families—safe, secure, loved—and off the streets.