United Against Infant Mortality
Dr. Claudia Llanten is being honored as a Champion of Change for strengthening food security.
I first became involved in the United Against Infant Mortality/Unidos Contra La Mortalidad Infantil project in Peru in January of 2010. The project is a partnership between the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), Bon Secours Health System, CHRISTUS Health and Caritas del Peru. The goal is to decrease morbidity and mortality in children less than five years of age in three key regions of Peru where Catholic healthcare networks have established health ministries. I volunteered to perform the baseline evaluation project and spent a few weeks in Peru carrying out the initial assessments. I loved everything about the project; it really focused on a major gap in parental involvement with their children’s health and nutrition, it was community-based, and the project offered the economic and food security support that was needed to enable these parents to put what they learned into action.
The United Against Infant Mortality project works in schools and with families to grow vegetable gardens and teach children and parents the importance of healthy eating. One part of the program gives guinea pigs, a staple and traditional protein source in Peru, to families for breeding so they can feed themselves and sell them to earn income. Each family given these animals has to share the first set of offspring with another family to give them the same opportunity. Mothers take part in nutritional workshops for 15 days in the home of a community health worker, during which they learn better feeding and child care practices, using a mix of traditional products and modern knowledge. Anemia among participating families has dropped by half since the project began.
After working for years in education programs where families were unable to put into practice what they have learned, it is amazing to watch families improve their children’s health through a combination of local knowledge and resources. It has been my honor to serve the population in Peru with the support of CMMB, Bon Secours Health System, and CHRISTUS Health.
In the future I have a keen interest in further developing health and nutrition programs among indigenous women, who are often isolated and disadvantaged, in the four Andean countries - Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia.
Dr. Claudia Llanten is Project Director and Country Representative for Peru for the Catholic Medical Mission Board