I get around is one of our regular series. Every month, Association members tell stories of where they are, what they are doing, who they have met, and why they believe or hope they are doing valuable work. This month we have Ana Lucia Mayen, telling us about her experience in Guatemala and her work with PAHO after the national food security crisis that affected the country.
My work at PAHO began on 2009, when Guatemala was affected by the economic crisis that led to a decrease in the family income and remittances (which play an important role in our economy), and an increase in poverty. Guatemala is highly vulnerable to natural phenomena, and its effects have impacted
our food security several times in our history.
On 2009, a period of drought was seen, caused by the climate phenomenon El niño. It was the worst drought in 30 years, and it caused dramatic losses in basic grains crops (beans and corn).
Chronic undernutrition (stunting) has long been a problem in our country. The rates have decreased over time, but in 2009 the prevalence of acute undernutrition (wasting) increased dramatically. On the 10th of September, a state of public calamity was declared by the president, and a call for help to the international community was held. In response, the UN system requested assistance from the Central Emergency Fund (CERF), which responded providing 5 million dollars to 5 UN agencies (FAO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP, WHO). Work was conducted jointly with local authorities and humanitarian partners.
A national strategic plan called Decrease of mortality due to severe acute malnutrition and related diseases was presented, with the following components:
- Epidemiologic vigilance and early surveillance
- Institutional Strengthening
- Service provision
- Promotion, education and communication
- Legal components
As an important part of the plan, I was able to participate in the update of the treatment protocols and national guidelines:
Later on I headed with colleges towards the inner parts of the country, to train professionals on the treatment of severe acute undernutrition. This was such a rewarding experience, because it let me open my eyes and notice the big need that people in our rural areas face every day, as well as the immense beauty and cultural richness in our departments.
At the end of the plan, lives were saved, institutions were strengthened, human milk banks and vigilance systems were established. For me, it was the beginning of a dream: to impact lives by working in one of the United Nations System organizations.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and should not be taken to be those of the Association.
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