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FEATURE STORY

Ecuador: An album that can save the life of a child

October 30, 2013

“Growing with our guaguas (children)” information workshops.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Young children who receive protection and affection during their first years of life have greater possibilities for growing up strong and healthy.
  • Speaking, communicating and relating with others are skills developed during the first years of life.
  • Growing up with our guaguas works with children under the age of five in Chimborazo Province to reduce child malnutrition.

It is 7 in the morning when Isabel Villacís leaves her home in Chimborazo, Ecuador on her way to La Libertad neighborhood, where much of the population lives in poverty.

Isabel, a collaborator of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES), works as a family educator in an initiative called Growing with our Guaguas, which provides information on nutrition, good health practices and psychomotor development of guaguas (the word for children in the Quechua and Aymara languages).

Conchita Cando, a mother, barely hid her excitement about “Ms. Isabel’s” visit. Her daughter, nearly two years old, has made significant strides in her development.

 “Thanks to Ms. Isabel, my daughter Mayensi seems livelier; you can understand what she needs. She used to just point to objects without saying anything. Now she quickly memorizes everything you teach her,” says Conchita.

The care children receive in their first five years of life is decisive for the future skills they will develop. Children who receive protection and affection during this stage not only have more possibilities for growing healthy and strong; they also develop better speaking, communication and relationship skills.

Isabel, a psychologist, is one of 360 people who have received training in growth and development issues and the use of the family and community alert registry.

 “The main role of a family educator is to raise awareness and train families through demonstrations designed to promote the replication of the activity by family members, especially parents,” says Isabel.

“My first five years”

To help make this learning exercise easier for family members, the World Bank and the MIES have created the album “My first five years.”

This is one of the key tools of the family and community registry proposal, which complements the official nutritional oversight system, whose objective is to alert parents with respect to the growth and development status of their children based on the analysis of daily household events.

The album helps parents, who use stickers and fill in the spaces provided in the album, to document 10 important events during the first years of their children’s lives.

 “That information allows for the monthly recording of changes and enables the monitoring of their children’s growth and development to make them aware of the situation of health and nutrition interventions for children,” say Nelson Gutiérrez, a World Bank specialist in social protection.

The album will be distributed to parents of 10,000 children under the age of five. The goal is to make completing the album a pleasant activity for parents, by filling it with photos, drawings and keepsakes of their growing children.

The following are the 10 daily household events prioritized to monitor the growth and development of children:

1.    Eats more and consumes more varied foods

2.   Gained weight

3.    Clothes are too small

4.    Reaches for objects

5.   Shows affection

6.    Is irritable

7.    Went to a health checkup

8.    Got sick

9.    Recognizes people, animals and objects

10. Understands more

A copy of the album (in Spanish) can be downloaded in this link