Peru is a country in western South America that is home to approximately 30 million people. It is estimated that nearly 550,000 Peruvian children grow up without parental care. Extreme poverty and disparities among indigenous populations may put children at risk for abandonment.
In recent years, Peru has seen noted improvements in child mortality rates. While the Peruvian government has drastically cut chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years of age, malnutrition is still widely prevalent in impoverished, rural areas. Despite being a country rich in natural resources, in poor rural, Andean regions nearly 30% of children under 5 years are malnourished.
Under a government program to promote nutritious breakfasts, children are fed boiled eggs, quinoa, and apple punch. Recently, the government has instituted a national campaign promoting the Andean diet to combat infant malnutrition. Additionally, the United Nations declared 2013 to be the “International Year of Quinoa” to raise awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural value of this traditional food. UNICEF has developed community monitoring programs and health centers in rural communities to educate and support indigenous populations. These efforts will hopefully have a powerful impact on preserving ancestral practices for cultivating quinoa as well as reducing poverty and hunger in Andean communities and beyond.
Stunting, wasting, undernutrition, and underweight in Peruvian children may be linked with inconsistent breastfeeding practice (none or shortened duration), lack of education on complementary feeding, seasonal variation in food availability, lack of food variety (leading to a monotonous diet – rice, beans, plantain, cassava), poverty, and lack of maternal and child health services or underutilizing of health services.
Additionally, Peruvian children may be at an increased risk for the following micronutrient deficiencies: