With a new year, comes a new beginning, and all the hope that brings. No one knows that more than Virginia Gomez and young mothers like her in Comitancillo, Guatemala. Virginia is the proud mom of a healthy 11-month-old, Gladys. But until recently, young, new lives were the most fragile in Comitancillo, where malnutrition poses a deadly problem for infants and toddlers. That’s why Catholic Relief Services is working with 10,500 vulnerable families there every year, so that children, pregnant women and new moms can have better access to food and health care. CRS distributes food and water filters and teaches mothers like Virginia how to prevent malnutrition, treat common illnesses and improve hygiene. The women then learn how to teach this lifesaving information to other parents, ensuring these lessons will reach more people and be passed down through generations to come.
“Malnutrition is often a part of a vicious cycle that includes poverty and disease,” says Monica Rodriguez, who oversees the project. “A malnourished child gets sick more often, doesn’t do as well in school and can become physically and mentally stunted. This keeps communities trapped in the cycle of poverty.”
Mayan indigenous communities are especially shut off from basic government services, so CRS is focusing its efforts on farming families in 357 communities like Virginia’s. Most families in the region earn their living growing potatoes, and now they are learning how to improve the quality of their crop and connect directly with markets and buyers to negotiate better rates. So with the start of this year—and many more to come—Virginia and many others can look forward to a stronger, healthier future.
For more information, read our story at crs.org/stories/improving-child-health-and-survival-guatemala. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.