(by Sofia Persson)
LIMA - Pachacútec, an isolated area to the north of Lima, isn’t featured on any tourist map. The people living there are among the poorest in the capital. Many arrived from other, even poorer parts of the country.
Fortunately for the people who live there, Pachacútec has been very much on WFP’s ‘map’. Living conditions are overcrowded and facilities are often basic. In 2004 it was discovered that an especially high proportion of children in the area were suffering from chronic undernutrition and anaemia.
WFP teamed up with local NGO Alternativa and PRONAA (the Peruvian National Food Program) to create a project uniquely for Pachacútec. Using primarily an enriched porridge, it demonstrated to participants how intervening early and comprehensively can prevent or reduce such conditions in infants under two years of age. The project ended in 2007.
Value of good nutrition
One of the participants was Liz, 27. Her two daughters, Jaritza, 11 and Salay, 6, were both beneficiaries during the project. “I can see a big difference between my daughters. Salay, who started with the WFP porridge at an earlier stage, is very lively and helps me with the daily chores.”
Having learned the value of good nutrition, Liz now spends up to seven hours daily in a community kitchen, preparing food for mothers who are unable to cook in their own homes. Mothers pay a small fee for nutritious meals that they can give to their families. At least, she says, they will have one cooked meal for the day.
Food price hikes
Liz’s and others’ work in the kitchen, called Las Rocas, is even more important since 2008’s food price hikes started. Pachacútec residents have been spending up to 85 percent of their income on food. People have been forced to cut back on many items that were used daily before the crisis. Now they eat protein only a few times a week, usually in the form of eggs.
“We haven’t had meat or fish since the crisis began,” explains Liz. “And if we ever have an opportunity to prepare something with better quality, we all prioritize our children. Their livelihood comes first. WFP’s early intervention project taught us that.”