Reducing Malnutrition in San Vicente
Submitted by Dr. Mauricio Lozano
CBH National Coordinator, El Salvador
The high rate of malnutrition among children under five in the Salamanca section of Verapaz, a city located in the San Vicente province, was a cause for concern. In 2004, Ms. Dinora Mejia, a nurse and teacher, attended a Problem Solving for Better Health ®(PSBH ®) workshop in La Palma and came away with a new attitude about tackling problems affecting her community. She developed a nutrition project to educate mothers about the preparation of healthy meals for their children using locally available nutrients.
A preliminary survey conducted by Ms. Mejia and her class indicated a 49% rate of child malnutrition in Salamanca. Ms. Mejia trained her class, which consisted of 17 students, to give nutrition lessons and demonstrate healthy meal preparation. They conducted the classes at the community center, providing mothers with information about available leaves, fruits, and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens. They also encouraged the use of soybean-based foods and taught food safety habits. An agricultural worker volunteered as a guest speaker to discuss gardening techniques. Meetings were held regularly with an average attendance of 60 mothers.
After the classes, the students demonstrated how to prepare practical recipes rich in nutrients. Neighborhood residents who live next to the community center volunteered the use of their kitchen so the students could prepare "mora" soup. This soup’s ingredients include green vegetables, seasonal fruits, and the "mora" leaf, which contains iron and vitamin B.
Today, mothers are preparing the recipes on their own, and as more people learn about the project, mothers from other communities in Verapaz are also beginning to participate. The project is ongoing, with lessons continuing throughout the school year, along with regular assessments (height and weight measurement). In addition, the Ministry of Health provides medical care and vaccinations.
Community solidarity has improved through the active leadership of Ms. Mejia and her students. The mayor’s office, the Ministry of Health, community residents, and "El Arbol de Vida" (The Tree of Life) vegetarian restaurant in San Salvador have all volunteered and contributed to the project. This is what PSBH® is all about - teamwork.