In 2009, Melvin Ernesto Pérez first came to a Childhood Wellness Center in the municipality of Apaneca. The signs of severe undernutrition were visible not only on his body but also in other areas of his life.
At the age of two, his skin had multiple infections, such as skin desquamation (peeling), dry skin and cracking along skin lines in the hands and feet. He had lost his hair and the little that remained was thin and brittle. He often suffered from respiratory diseases and was underweight for his age.
Melvin had not managed to reach the potential of his personality. He was quiet, shy and had no desire to eat or play. Melvin is an only child. His mother suffers from mental retardation and cannot care for him. Since he was born his maternal grandmother, María del Socorro Pérez, has looked after him.
In late 2009, the staff members of the Center visited the home of María del Socorro. It was during this visit that they discovered that Melvin needed urgent attention. At first, María refused to let the Center help Melvin; however with the help of the community health promoter, they managed to convince her to enroll him to receive the necessary care.
A Comprehensive Intervention
Melvin was born in Colonia El Tigre, in the city of Apaneca, department of Ahuachapan, El Salvador, one of the areas of the country reporting more than 20% children under the age of five years old with chronic under nutrition.
Apaneca is one of the municipalities taking part in the World Food Programme intervention areas, through the Project “Nutrimos El Salvador”. This project aims to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable groups, through the donation of fortified complementary foods, promoting good practices in health, food and nutrition; and training health staff and the community.
This is a comprehensive project involving the Ministry of Health, the Institute for the Development of Children and Adolescents, NGOs, local leaders and the private sector. This is a WFP initiative that seeks to give a joint response and multidimensional take on child undernutrition by intervening in municipalities that have been rated with high risk or with different levels of chronic malnutrition.
For thousands of Salvadoran children participating as beneficiaries, the Project “Nutrimos El Salvador” has been an important opportunity that has changed their lives. This project helped to improve the health status of Melvin as well as his family environment, since they have changed their old habits that have enabled them to have a better health and nutrition.
As part of “Nutrimos El Salvador”, the child welfare centres of ISNA (Salvadoran Institute for Children and Adolescents Development) receive rations of rice, beans, vegetable oil and Super Cereal, a fortified corn-soya blend which is served to adults and children over 6 months. These food rations are funded with the support of YUM Brands! one of WFP's global partners who have joined the fight against hunger and under nutrition.
Maria del Carmen Lemus and Claudia Garcia, two mothers and caretakers of the Center, have accompanied Melvin through his recovery process. His diet now includes Super Cereal and both healthy snacks and mealtimes. In addition, the health staff has been observing the health of Melvin allowing them to closely monitor his progress.
Currently Melvin is 5 years old and regularly attends Apaneca’s Center, where he learned to interact with other children his age. His physical condition has improved considerably: he has a normal nutritional status, his hair has grown back, and his skin is normal and no longer suffers from recurrent infections. His grandmother María is satisfied with the health and progress of Melvin, who with care and special attention is dealing with the consequences of under nutrition.