Developing strategies to end hunger

Integrated Nutrition Program Works in Guatemala

In our visit to Guatemala, Hunger Report editor Todd Post and I were fortunate to be hosted by Save the Children, who showed us an impressive project that deals with improving nutrition across development sectors.  These programs are called “integrated” in that improving nutrition – particularly in vulnerable groups like women and children – is an important indicator of success in different sectors like agriculture, health and livelihoods.

In response to the drought of 2009-2012 in the eastern “Dry Corridor” of Guatemala, nutrition interventions with a total of 21,867 vulnerable families (131,256 total recipients) helped check acute malnutrition before it became widespread and severe.  Successive crop failures due to drought necessitated an integrated program of food assistance, health and nutrition interventions, women leader education and behavior change communication.

With funding from the PL 480 Title II programs (known as Food for Peace), Save the Children Federation Inc., along with sub-grantee Mercy Corps, responded to the fast evolving food insecurity emergency with a project called “Programa de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Oriente” (PROSANO, or the Food Security and Nutrition Program in the Dry Corridor of Eastern Guatemala). In the first year, three of the five departments (regions) of the dry corridor- Chiquimula, Zacapa, and El Progreso were supported.  These areas are in a mountainous area with depleted soils, increasing water scarcity, and recurring agricultural pest disease issues.  161 communities at high risk of acute malnutrition were reached in the first year, and a total of 11,013 vulnerable families who lost their entire subsistence corn and bean crops were served.  The program objective of reducing the impact of the food security crisis in vulnerable households, while simultaneously mitigating and managing future shocks to health, nutrition, livelihoods, and overall food security was clearly met.

PROSANO focuses on three main outcomes: increasing household access to nutritious foods, improving nutritional status of children from vulnerable households, and improving availability of nutritious foods.  Its main beneficiaries have been small children, pregnant and breastfeeding women experiencing or at risk of malnutrition. It delivered pre-packaged monthly food rations of rice, corn-soy blend, pinto beans, and fortified oil.  It also conducted health assessments (weight and middle upper arm circumference measurement), and provided nutrition education as part of the food aid distribution. 

MUAC Guate
Photo:  Scott Bleggi

As an important component to sustain program successes, more than 400 “Mother Leaders” and caregivers have been trained in health, nutrition and hygiene.  Some of these PROSANO participants have been certified by the Ministry of Health to expand their work outside the program, adding potential employment.  Additionally more than 500 “Agricultural Leaders” have been trained in crop and animal production, agro forestry, and family gardens.  Rural family livelihoods have improved by introduction of certified seeds, low cost irrigation systems, worms for compost, and grain storage silos.  Apiaries and laying hens now provide critical nutritional protein to check the advance of malnourishment in children.

Madre Lideres

Photo:  Scott Bleggi

In integrated, cross-sector assistance projects like PROSANO, malnourished women and children were not only provided food aid, but also health education and leadership training as a means to address and sustain household food security, nutrition and livelihoods. Ensuring proper nutrition, especially adequate nutrition in the 1,000 Days window can not only save lives but can set the stage for life-long benefits of improved health, better education, lower susceptibility to chronic disease, and increased economic success.

As Bread for the World Institute continues to critically examine the role of nutrition in the government’s Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives, we can point to PROSANO as an example of well-considered emergency assistance that correctly focuses on the important role of nutrition in women and children across development sectors.

Scott Blog PicScott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst for hunger and nutrition with Bread for the World Institute.




« Maria’s Story—An Immigrant’s Struggle Enabling and Equipping Women to Improve Nutrition »


Thanks Scott for the report about prosano. We just returned from Guatemala (group of 19 from Irvine United Congregational Church) and came back with questions and concerns about poverty in that Country. We want to get at root causes. Can you help us?

Carry on..George S Johnson, author
Beyond Guilt.

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