Food prices have recently skyrocketed in the western highlands of Guatemala, and chronic malnutrition is stunting the development of children both physically and mentally. However, indigenous plants once common to the area may hold a solution.
In the western highlands of Guatemala, a silent disease is rife. Chronic malnutrition is stunting the development of children -- both their bodies and their minds. Maria Leonor and her extended family are not getting enough to eat. Most children in this house are malnourished. Higher food prices, partly due to the changing climate, results in a limited and monotonous diet of maize and beans.
Everything is too expensive. The price of maize is going up and up, every day. We just eat tortillas and beans, nothing else. We can't afford to eat any other food.
The problem is not a shortage of calories. What's missing are essential vitamins and minerals vital for these children's development. The damage done during these critical early years can never be repaired.
DR. CARLOS ARRIOLA [Director, Bethania Clinic, Guatemala]
The lack of proper nutrition is limiting their intellectual development. It doesn't only affect their physical growth, but their brain development as well. This is a life sentence, not just for the children, but also for the country.
Maria Leonor's thirteenth child, four-year-old Debora, is lethargic. It's a classic sign of chronic malnutrition. Her grandchild Elsa has a stomach infection, another common sign. Her daughter-in-law is desperate.
I am worried. I fear he is going to die. He has malnutrition. He has been like this for three months. There is nothing I can do.
A previous food crisis prompted Sister Juana to take action. She's encouraging families to create their own kitchen gardens. Sister Juana distributes seeds to the rural communities where malnutrition hits hardest. Juana brings seeds of indigenous plants, which are resilient and highly nutritious. Popular with local people's ancestors, they slowly disappeared over the years. These tomatoes are high in vitamin C.