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August 11, 2017
Women head of households help alleviate child malnutrition in Paraguay

Coupled with the dedicated efforts spanning the last couple of decades by the Paraguayan Government to combat maternal and infantile malnutrition, a program promoted by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund), and implemented by several UN Agencies, local and national partners, indigenous organizations and civil societies has attempted for the last two year to contribute to reducing the worrying infant and maternal malnutrition rates. The program “Paraguay protects, promotes and facilitates its obligations to the right of food and food security and nutrition in populations labeled and prioritized as being in vulnerable situations”, has supported the indigenous populations in three different rural regions throughout the country considered as highly vulnerable” those districts being President Hayes, Caaguzau and Caazapá Department. The program also focuses on rights and cultural diversity and centers its efforts in aiding those who are considered a cornerstone in dealing with chronic infantile malnutrition: rural women who are heads of households.

Since 1997 Paraguay has achieved some notable progress in its efforts in the reduction of extreme poverty, which unfortunately has not benefited much of the rural areas of the county, where 4 out of 10 Paraguayans do not earn enough income in order to ensure their families basic necessities. This reality dramatically affects children and teenagers. The statistics are indeed alarming, more than a million people find themselves in child poverty, of which 600,000 live in rural zones and more than 60% are in a situation of extreme poverty. Regarding children in indigenous populations within Paraguay, the situation is even more alarming: extreme poverty affects almost 7 out of 10 people and almost 50% suffer from chronic malnutrition. This is in addition to the fact that every 3 out of 10 pregnant women are underweight during pregnancy increasing the risk of newborns to be born with severe deficiencies and with a very high chances of them succumbing to disease or sickness.

Often not given the sufficient recognition that they deserve, women play a vital and fundamental role in the production of food and in generating means of income and livelihood, allowing them to contribute greatly to their families’ food security. This key roles that women play as producers of goods and as mothers aren’t always recognized or validated within public policies dealing with health and nutrition, rural development and in particular the promotion of agrarian families. The general tendency is to under or disvalue women in general, their roles in the family unit and in general and in their participation in social affairs, resulting in their needs and interests being ignored or overlooked. The very same needs and interests which can serve as positive mediums for the development of their abilities and their own empowerment.

Community Protagonists

The program has focused on its efforts to strength the participation and education of women in rural communities regarding politics, planning and programs promoted by the different Paraguayan institutions, especially encouraging their participation in decision making capacities within public affairs. They have also supported the creation and development of organization dealing with the indigenous communities, the creation of social and participatory dialogues and discussion throughout the different districts, offering workshops on food security and nutrition which also focus on rights and gender issues. Moreover, other workshops have also focused on capacity building in terms of leadership and empowerment. 

Likewise, these activities have also been undertaken alongside the strengthening of families and indigenous agricultural production, with some 12,600 agrarian families and some 2,430 indigenous families benefitting from the program. The program has shared with these families the best methods and approaches towards agricultural production, as well as the diversification of nutrients and their commercialization and always heavily focuses women and the important role they play. One such example, is the capacity building programs on agro-ecology for indigenous and rural women.

At the end of the summer, the program will evaluate how effective its approach focusing on rights, gender and respect towards different cultures has been in diminishing malnutrition in children under 5 and that of their mothers in the districts of Presidente Hayes, Caaguazú y Caazapá. Furthermore, the program will analyze how effectively the new techniques and tools have been adopted by both women and men in agricultural families in agricultural production. With women at the head of these tasks, the future does indeed seem very hopeful.

More about the program.

The joint program, “Paraguay protects, promotes and facilitates its obligations to the right of food and food security and nutrition in populations labeled and prioritized as being in vulnerable situations”, is an initiative of the SDG Fund implemented by the UN Agencies: UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Government of Paraguay, local governments, indigenous collectives and civil society. It was all financially supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) to the SDG Fund. The programme budget totaled 3 million dollars and the program itself began on the 1st of April of 2015 and was completed the 31st of July 2017.