Father William Wasson, the founder of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, once said, “My very soul cries out and forces me to go where there are starving children”. His experiences with children and youths who had lived on the streets made him aware of the wide-ranging, long-term effects that malnutrition and poor health can have on a human being. Father Wasson sought to ensure that each child who is cared for by NPH would receive quality healthcare after coming from situations of hunger and deprivation.
Each of the nine NPH homes in Latin America and the Caribbean has an internal clinic, as well as smaller community clinics operated by some homes. NPH is also committed to helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal Three Good Health and Well-Being, which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages”. Healthcare has many meanings encompassing different aspects of one’s physical welfare, one of the basic ones being nutrition.
In El Salvador, according to research carried out in 2017 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), World Food Program (WFP), and the El Salvador government, one in six children had chronic malnutrition, while six in 10 adults were overweight. Such conditions create worrying consequences which affect the development of the country.
Unfortunately, due to low-income and poor education about nutrition, many families often do not maintain a good diet or healthy eating habits. Obtaining good nutrition during childhood is crucial so that children develop both physically and mentally according to their to their age, which frequently isn’t the case in El Salvador.
“It is important to promote the right to receive adequate food for children and youths, as it is established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by UNICEF. It is also confirmed in the sustainable development goals established in the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015,” explains Doctor Karla Monterrosa, Director of the NPH El Salvador clinic.
“In those statements, we can conclude that a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition need to be carried out simultaneously. They recognized to put an end to hunger, achieve food security and better nutrition, as well as ensuring a healthy lifestyle, promotes a positive well-being for everyone.”
At NPH El Salvador, eating a balanced diet is essential for the cognitive and physical development of the children and youths. The medical staff is made up of a doctor, a nutritionist, and nurses who work hard to provide the best for the children and staff. Doctor Karla Monterrosa says, “We have created a menu for our population, which is based on different factors, such as age, cultural and economic environment, availability of products, among others, but always focusing on the needs of the children and youth.
“It is also important that the children receive essential vitamins and nutrients in the meals they consume so that they acquire their ideal weight and height.”
When a child enters NPH, the staff carry out a comprehensive medical exam to discover the child’s state of health. Doctor Karla believes that NPH El Salvador receives approximately five children a year with malnutrition problems. Most children received by NPH are affected with growth and weight deficiencies, but a child who does not receive a balanced diet during the first five years of life can have developmental delays later.
“At the beginning, if we find that the child is underweight, we look for a way of identifying whether the child suffers from any pathology that may cause such a condition. We also check if the child might have parasites, which are very common in our country. After that, the nutritionist checks him and determines whether a special diet is needed,” explains Doctor Karla.
If a child does not receive adequate treatment for malnutrition, the consequences may be dangerous since in some cases, the development, learning skills, lack of growth are affected and in some extreme cases, death may occur.
At NPH El Salvador, teaching about nutrition and providing a healthy diet for the children and youth is one of our top important priorities. Thus, NPH continues to work hard to provide the population with the necessary diets and health routines to create a significant positive impact on their lives.
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