In Guatemala in particular, among children under the age of five, 46.5% of are stunted, 4.7% are overweight, and 1% are wasted.

Nutrition during the first years of life is an essential component for human development. Malnutrition can be caused by a lack or excess of food. Malnutrition due to lack of food can be classified in 3 types:

  • Acute: Underweight and stunted growth
  • Chronic: Stunted growth
  • Global: Underweight

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The excess of nutrition during the first years of life is very likely to cause obesity. In Guatemala in particular, among children under the age of five, 46.5% of are stunted, 4.7% are overweight, and 1% are wasted (UNICEF, Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women, 2015).

Acute malnutrition must be treated immediately and children diagnosed with this type of malnutrition should receive special treatment since there is a high risk of death.

Chronic malnutrition is relatively silent; children with this disease generally don’t receive a diagnosis. Guatemala is the country with the highest risk of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the 5th in the world. This makes chronic malnutrition the biggest nutrition issue among Guatemalan children.

According to the Maternal-Infant nutrition glossary:

Chronic Malnutrition is also called “stunting.” It is the result of a bad nutrition for long periods of time or episodes of infection. It’s a deficiency developed in the long run, which manifests as not growing up properly (short height) and can cause irreversible damages to the brain.

Anthropometric data on children under 5 years were captured during the Monitoring and Evaluation Survey of the Occidental High Plateau, with the objective of calculating the main indicators of infant nutrition.

The following graph presents the behavior of chronic malnutrition in the first 59 months (5 years) of life. You can see in the graph that the risk of chronic malnutrition doubles between 6 to 24 months.

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It is evident that children between the ages of 6 to 24 months are more vulnerable. One cause could be that they consume less breastmilk. From 24 months onward, the risk of chronic malnutrition remains very constant.

Because of these high risks, Guatemala has programs to prevent chronic malnutrition, especially within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which includes the period between conception to the time the child is 24 months old.

Pablo Toledo

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Pablo Toledo is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for USAID/Guatemala’s Monitoring and Evaluation Program. He has several years of experience leading large and small surveys and working with complex indicators on topics like poverty and stunting. In his spare time, he enjoys triathlons, photography, and woodworking.