Community Development | Health & Nutrition
For Via International, community development is an integrated system. Optimal health requires adequate nutrition and adequate nutrition requires healthy food. Healthy food requires a healthy ecosystem, access to healthy food, and sustainable agriculture.
Food Security requires a system that ensures access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Aa defined by USAID, food security is “when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs in order to lead a healthy and productive life." (USAID)
For a community to be food secure, food must be:
- available in sufficient quantity
- easily and affordably accessible by purchase or barter
- properly handled, stored, and prepared
In order to support food security, communities must also have adequate knowledge of nutrition, clean water, and sufficient sanitation services.
This goal for humanity seems distant. Malnutrition is the leading health issue for children worldwide, and more than ½ of the 9.7 million child-deaths each year are linked to malnutrition. When poor nutrition weakens the immune system, childhood diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory ailments can become deadly. Moreover, chronically malnourished children, particularly those affected by the widespread prevalence of anemia, will be unable to concentrate in school.
There are many strategies needed to achieve food security.
Nutrition Education - Via International has worked in the border region through community outreach workers for three decades, providing training in basic Nutrition Education for mothers and children. Delivered by Los Niños promotoras (outreach workers), the course includes cost effective recipes as well as health themes on high incidence issues such as diabetes. This approach weaves the community together to address other community concerns.
Given the current economic crisis and violence in the border region, communities have been hard hit and are even more vulnerable than before. Rural families continue to stream into the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali seeking employment in the many maquiladora factories that are essentially assembly businesses for products such as televisions. These factories are currently not hiring and those with jobs are having their work days decreased. Families are no longer able to feed their children.
Kilo de Ayuda Program - To address this emergent reality, Via International and Los Niños are partnering with Kilo de Ayuda, a program focused on eradicating malnutrition in Mexico and designed to serve 70,000 children throughout Mexico. The program provides a multi-dimensional approach including monitoring height/weight of children, anemia screening, nutritional education, a food package, and early childhood neuro-stimulation. This comprehensive approach also addresses water access and sanitation services, especially in rural areas.
Adventures in Life Program - Child health is also associated with social development. In the US/Mexico border region the drug trade and the stress of urban life lead many young people into addiction and gang activity. Working with tested educational materials and in collaboration with the Fundacion Comunitaria Queretaro, Via International and Los Niños are providing the Adventure in Life (Aventura de la Vida) program that includes a series of workbooks in themes of self-esteem, ethics, integrity and citizenship.
Via International is seeking to further support these initiatives and other community development partners by documenting the efforts, securing additional resources and engaging volunteers in the work.