GUATEMALA (WKOW)-- According to the United Nations Children's Fund or UNICEF, Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in Latin America.
I traveled recently to Guatemala with 25 people from around Madison as they brought support and compassion for children and their families. We bring you their stories in a series of special reports called 'Hope for Guatemala.'
Standing in the back of a pick-up truck the team of volunteers from around Madison make their way up a dusty, bumpy dirt road; donations in tow; families waiting for our arrival.
"We each bring like 90 pounds of goods to Guatemala," said Jim. "So there is no middle man. We bring it directly to the village and I think that is very special."
This is what they call 'Clinic Day.'
Many of the volunteers come to do whatever they can.
Four high school students from Verona are in charge of handing out clothing.
Others hand out shoes.
Or entertain the children as they wait most of the day for their turn.
Some have a very specific purpose while in Guatemala. Like Kathy Wilkinson. Kathy is a Physicians Assistant at UW-Hospital's Ear, Nose, and Throat department.
"My world back in the U.S. is very specialized and it's comfortable," said Kathy. "You are in a clinic. You have medications and x-ray. You kind of know what to expect and what's going to come in the door. Here you don't know what you are going to see. And it's hard, you only have a few minutes with the patient and you're working through an interpreter. The medications you have are what ever we have collected and what ever is on the table in front of you."
But Kathy knows she is making a difference.
"When you see these kids come in with their bloated bellies, pneumonia, you know they may die if they don't get treated and they have no other means," said Kathy.
"More than a million children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Why? Inadequate access to food. And it's only gotten worse over the last few years as food has gotten more expensive and the global economic crisis."
Ruth Noemi is proof. Her mother brought her in to be seen by a doctor; chances are for the first time. She has a cleft pallet so has not been able to get all the nutrients she needs to grow.
"She's stunted because of her malnutrition for a year and a half," said Kim. "It this would have been caught earlier the baby wouldn't be in this condition for so long."
If you did not find this baby today what would be the prognosis for her I asked Kim.
"Not very good," said Kim.
Programming note: tune in on March 12th at 5pm for a half-hour special: Hope for Guatemala.