UN Issues Warning Concerning the Uncontrolled Level of Child Undernourishment ‎in Ecuador

Por Dialogo
enero 22, 2009

The director of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in Ecuador, Helmut Rauch, issued a ‎warning today concerning the uncontrolled level of child undernourishment in Ecuador. ‎ ‎“It is unjustifiable that a medium-income country as Ecuador has such a terrible child ‎undernourishment problem,” said Rauch in an interview with EFE in Geneva. ‎ ‎ According to the WFP, after Guatemala, Honduras, and Bolivia, Ecuador is the Latin ‎American country with the fourth worst child undernourishment rate. ‎ Currently 26% of the Ecuadorian child population from zero to five years old is affected by ‎chronic undernourishment. This situation is worse in rural areas, where the rate reaches ‎‎35.7% of all children, and it is more critical among aboriginals, with rates above 40%. ‎ ‎“The first 24 months of life are essential to the physical and mental development of the ‎child. If such development is affected, the damage caused to the brain is irreversible, and ‎will affect the child for the rest of child’s life,” said the WFP expert. ‎“The ‎ worst thing is undernourishment’s vicious circle, since an undernourished child will ‎have fewer opportunities. As a result, undernourished people will be less developed, and ‎will have diminished resources to offer their children,” said Rauch. ‎ Therefore, the WFP director paraphrased a common saying among the humanitarians that ‎expresses the importance of prevention: “Acute undernourishment is a death sentence; ‎chronic undernourishment is a life sentence.” ‎ ‎“We consider undernourishment to be the spearhead of poverty. Combating ‎undernourishment is possible; combating poverty is harder,” said the German expert. ‎ According to the UN, if chronic undernourishment rates dropped 5%, global poverty rates ‎would be reduced by 20%. According to data provided by the Ecuadorian government, 12.8% of the Ecuadorian ‎population suffers from extreme poverty. In rural areas, rates rise to 49%; among ‎aboriginals rates reach 53%. ‎ The illiteracy rate for the entire country is 9%; in rural areas is 17%, and among aboriginals ‎it rises to 28%. ‎ ‎“Unfortunately, the illiteracy rate among aboriginal women rises to 40%.” However, Rauch considers that Rafael Correa’s current government is doing what is needed ‎to mitigate the situation. ‎“The new Constitution stresses the struggle against child undernourishment, and ‎malnutrition such as teenage obesity. The aims of the WFP and the current government are ‎completely compatible,” Rauch said. ‎ In 2004, the Ecuadorian government decided to take over all nutritional programs and ‎combat malnutrition in the country. Since then, the WFP has been limited to technical ‎assessment tasks, logistics, and acting in emergency cases. ‎ ‎ Furthermore, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ‎‎(UNHCR) and UNICEF, the WFP implements a program that supports and assists ‎Colombian refugees who have crossed the border and find themselves on Ecuadorian soil.‎
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