Health network aimed to prevent child malnutrition

Batey 5, Bahoruco province.- “In the past, many children died and people said it was because of the witches. Now we know it was from malnutrition because we have other skills,” says Alenni Desi, 23-year-old resident in Batey 5 community in Bahoruco province.

Desi belongs to a 550 volunteers network who guide the mothers in their communities for the prevention of child malnutrition 0-5. The group was formed by World Vision and is present in the seven provinces of the country where the organization serves.

“We are facilitators. We learn what World Vision teaches us and replicate it in our communities. We train mothers so they can nurture their children with food that is grown and found in the community,” she says.

She is a sophomore in nursing school at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) campus in Barahona. She confesses that this volunteer work motivated her to choose a career in the field of Health.

Desi lives with her daughter and her husband.

Desi states that information is key to properly feeding a child: “In the batey we did not know we can make plantain flour, which nourishes the child. We have coconut all over the place and did not know it also has nutrients. The main thing for the child to be nurtured is to provide him or her with six months of exclusive breastfeeding. After six months you will add other ingredients, like soft porridge.”

Desi's mom, Adaelicia, is also a helper. Points out: “When a child is born in the community, I go and instruct the mother about hygiene and how to care for the baby. We track them three times a month with home visits. If the child gets sick we notify World Vision and refer the mom to the nearest health center.”

Adaelicia, with his daughter Desi serve voluntarily in their community to prevent child malnutrition.

Laura Jimenez, 32, describes her experience two years ago with her daughter Daniela, who is five years old now: “I realized that my daughter was malnourished during a home visit. We gave her the multimix and milk and that helped her gain weight. The health promoters are with you always. Now my daughter is in kindergarten”.

Jiménez emphasizes the importance of having a Primary Care Unit (UNAP) in every community in the country, and that the State ensures that there is no malnourished child.

Laura and her daughter Daniela.

In 2013, only 7% of children in Dominican Republic were exclusively breastfed, which is recommended during the first six months of life. In 2007 this indicator was 10%, which shows that exclusive breastfeeding in the country, which was already low, continues to decline; according to the Demographic and Health Survey (Endesa) for that year.

The survey also stated that 72% of breastfed children received other milk than breast milk, and 85% of infants under two years were bottle-fed.

Latin America and the Caribbean, with the exception of Guatemala, Guyana and Haiti have malnutrition levels lower than 10%, according to 2014 data released by the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), on the report “Latin America 25 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

In this country, child malnutrition was 7% in 2013; acute malnutrition stood at 2% and 4% overall, according to Endesa that year.

In Health, World Vision seeks to strengthen the capacity of people in the communities to be the ones who lead their own development and demand their rights enforcement.

“I won’t leave my community. I want to continue helping people because I love to help those who need me. My dream is to live comfortable with my child and my husband and to give my child all the good that can be given to a child,” it is what Desi longs for.

Prevention of child malnutrition has been made possible thanks to door to door visits or "home visits" by the volunteers who are part of the health committees.