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19% of indigenous children from Panama suffer chronic malnutrition

19% of indigenous children from Panama suffer chronic malnutrition


Source: / EFE
FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) reported today from Panama City that chronic malnutrition in children from indigenous regions of Panama is greater than 19%, well ahead of the Latin American average, which is 12.8%.

During the presentation of results from a pilot health security project in indigenous regions, the FAO stated that in Panama, an indigenous child from a rural area is three or five times more likely to suffer from malnutrition than a non-indigenous child from the city.

"National averages often conceal large gaps of inequality. The largest concentration of hunger is found in indigenous communities", explained Ignacio Rivera, the FAO regional coordinator for Mesoamerica.

Malnutrition rates among indigenous Panamanian children, "are similar to those of El Salvador and Honduras, with a respective 20.6% and 22.7%", confirmed Allan Hruska, the pilot project leader.

Two years ago, FAO and MIDA launched a pilot project in which they taught over 200 indigenous families from Guna Yala and Ngbe-Buglé to vary their diet and reintroduce traditional crops such as soft yam, otoe, yucca, plantain and pigeon peas among others.

Thanks to this Project, indigenous families may now make more informed decisions regarding the most nutritious foods for their children, Rivera explained. It also taught them harvesting techniques and introduced them to new technology.

According to the last census, Panama’s autochthonous population is over 400,000 people (12% of the country’s total population) and according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), 6% of indigenous Panamanians suffer from extreme poverty.

There are seven indigenous ethnicities, although the major ones are Guna Yala and Ngbe-Buglé. The majority of indigenous Panamanians inhabit rural areas and suffer the highest rates of food insecurity and economic incapacity.

The international organisation also adds that these lack productive systems and social protection programmes enabling them to compensate the food deficit.

"70% of Guna Yala and Ngbe-Buglé communities suffer from extreme poverty and 64% from malnutrition", adds the Minister for the Agricultural Development of Panama (MIDA), Jorge Arango.

The project was called "The food security project in indigenous regions: a two-way compromise" and required an investment of almost 300.000 dollars.

© / EFE  - translated by Felix Charnley / original article

Date : 29/05/2015