Guatemala, November 2011. For the past two years Agroamerica has been implementing the Better Families program in 12 rural communities across the country. A self-help program, Better Families focuses on improving the health conditions, nutrition and social behavior among beneficiary families. Among its goals are to reduce malnutrition and infant mortality rates, improve school performance among boys and girls, as well as to improve productivity and community development. To date 11,900 people have benefited from this program, including 750 mothers and 880 children.
Better Families targets women directly, who after training become relays of important information within their families and their communities. They learn about self esteem, health, hygiene, nutrition, care for the environment and child growth, among other topics. To verify knowledge competence program technical staff make periodic home visits, where they also conduct weight and height measurements of children under five years of age, and learned practices are reinforced with activities such as medical and gynecological fairs involving the whole community.
Walter Tello, program coordinator in the South Coast, noted that he has observed significant changes in the communities where Better Families is implemented. Beneficiary families have shown to have improved health habits, including the increased use of safe water for consumption. Also, the program has improved the capacity of participating mothers to make better decisions regarding their family?s health, which has resulted in fewer cases of diarrheal diseases and lower maternal and infant mortality rates. With improved self-esteem, women are better able to identify early the symptoms of breast and cervical cancer, as well as to improve the nutritional intake of their children’s diet.
Participating woman Odilia Guzmán Soto from the village of Chiquirines expresses her satisfaction with the program: “I feel very happy because I have learned how to take better care of my children, to improve the health habits around my home, and to better value and appreciate myself as a woman and as a person.”
Agroamerica also provides assistance to special cases of child malnutrition, offering medical help, food and care during their convalescence. The company is part of the Provincial Food and Nutritional Security Commission (CODESAN), which along with government entities and other NGOs is in the process of designing a Food and Nutritional Strategic Plan to address the problem of malnutrition in the coastal region.