With all the programs and projects that HRI implements to help communities and people internationally, it is easy to get lost in the sea of information regarding the hard work of the staff and participants. This is why we at HRI want to take a moment to introduce our programs and give a more defined picture of how we go about approaching our goals.
While we focus on improving child health, well-being and outcomes, it is important to remember that these are not easily reached finish lines. There are many different dimensions of this work that must come together to create the positive and lasting change that we know is possible. For instance, we recognize that food alone won’t solve the problem of a child’s nutritional status. We must approach the problem from multiple directions, which is why we implement programs across a wide variety of areas while targeting a wide range of ages within communities.
Start From The Beginning
This starts with infant and toddler feeding and educating care providers on the most effective practices to improve a child’s nutrition as early in life as possible. But it doesn’t stop there. Continued work is needed during the school-aged years as this is a time when many children go without regular meals. In Guatemala, one out of every two children under the age of five suffers from chronic malnutrition, the highest rate in Latin America and the fourth highest rate in the world. Without proper nutrition a child’s attention span and performance suffer. This is compounded by the fact that malnourished and stunted children often drop out of rural school systems or are too sick to attend. When meals cannot be provided at home, hot, nutritious meals at school can also be motivation for parents to ensure their children attend classes.
Lack of available nutrition at home is another issue that HRI tackles head-on by helping families start their own home gardens and building safe, energy-efficient stoves to replace dangerous open wood fire stoves. These measures are proven to be high-impact interventions that improve both child and family health. They also provide new opportunities for families to access nutritious food while encouraging community involvement and self-sufficiency.
However, as always, we have to remember that food alone won’t solve the problem.
The Importance of WASH
Clean water, proper sanitation and effective hygiene play crucial roles in helping improve child outcomes. Nutrition, by itself, won’t be able to turn the tide of disease and illness affecting so many, in both Guatemala and Haiti. The list of waterborne and sanitation related diseases is staggeringly long, including cholera, typhoid and many, many parasites. Chronic diarrhea is the most devastating public health problem directly related to water and sanitation. In 2015, it accounted for 9% of all deaths of children under the age of 5 worldwide. This is why HRI provides health clinics to allow communities access to testing, treatment and medicine that would not otherwise be available.
Treatment of disease is necessary, but not effective in preventing future outbreaks. Which is why the importance of water treatment, filtration and access to proper hygiene supplies cannot be understated. In order to create an environment where children and their communities are able to grow and thrive, HRI’s programs must target root causes and long-term solutions.
Knowledge is Power
HRI also knows none of these programs will work without the participation of the members of the communities we serve, which is why education and empowerment is always at the forefront of what we do. Making sure that individuals, both adults and children, learn the best practices for a healthy lifestyle within their environment is the best way to ensure their continued progress toward long-term health and well-being. We hope to empower communities to stop the harmful patterns and build new, safe environments in which to live.
As you can tell, we have our hands full doing everything within our power to ensure positive outcomes and this is merely the beginning. Thanks to supporters like you we are able to continue the work that we love and give hope to those that desperately need it.
Contributed by: Caitlin Barnett