Girl holds glass of milk.

Powdered Milk: A Lifesaver for Guatemala’s Malnourished Children

I love this photo. It reminds me of those old “Got Milk?” ads.

That’s 2-year-old Tatiana in the photo, and she is about to enjoy a delicious glass of milk provided by Cross Catholic Outreach. I can almost imagine the smile and “milk moustache” on Tatiana’s face after she savors her first sip.

Unfortunately, there’s a serious story behind this image. Milk isn’t just a treat to children like Tatiana. It is essential to her health and the health of thousands of precious kids like her. But milk is typically difficult for her family to provide. The good news is that our deliveries of milk powder provide a partial answer to the crushing problem of chronic malnutrition in Guatemala, where little Tatiana lives.

When Tatiana was just 2 months old, her mother was experiencing severe personal problems and economic hardship. In desperation, her mother sought help from the religious sisters who run the Santa Maria de Montesclaros Children’s Home. The sisters took in Tatiana. Her mother never came back for her, and Tatiana is now growing up under the loving care of the sisters.

Despite her heartbreaking story, Tatiana is one of the lucky ones. She could still be among the hundreds of thousands of impoverished Guatemalan children who continue to suffer from chronic malnutrition because they lack the nutrition they need.

Related: Addressing Chronic Childhood Malnourishment in Guatemala

The Scourge of Chronic Malnutrition

Tragedy affects far too many children in developing countries. They are often perpetually hungry and uncertain of when they will eat again. Some experience such desperation that they turn to eating unripe fruit or even dirt “cookies.” Even then, many go to bed night after night with an aching stomach and tears in their eyes. 

This hunger is much more than an inconvenience because chronic malnutrition can ultimately have a devastating and lasting impact on a child’s health. Malnutrition is caused by a lack of food or inadequate intake of essential nutrients. According to the CIA World Factbook, it’s a tragic way of life for nearly one-half of all Guatemalan children under age 5.

Almost one in two children in Guatemala suffer from malnourishment.
Almost one in two children in Guatemala suffer from malnourishment.

Related: Child Hunger in Guatemala — Causes, Effects and Solutions

Imagine applying that statistic to your own life here in the U.S. How would you respond if one of every two young children you knew were suffering from malnutrition? That’s hard to fathom, but it’s the reality in Guatemala, where thousands suffer every day for lack of safe water and access to “daily bread.”

Suffering Close to Home

These hardships aren’t a world away either. Guatemala is less than three hours by plane from the U.S. border. If you were to visit, it wouldn’t be long before you’d notice the telltale signs of chronic childhood malnutrition. In the poorest communities, there are scores of small boys and girls with bloated bellies, hollow eyes and brittle, rust-colored hair.

Girls and boys who face this kind of hunger day after day don’t develop normally. “Malnutrition,” according to UNICEF, “can cause permanent, widespread damage to a child’s growth, development and well-being. Stunting in the first 1,000 days is associated with poorer performance in school, both because malnutrition affects brain development, and also because malnourished children are more likely to get sick and miss school.”   

Without protein, vitamins and carbohydrates in their system, malnourished children have little energy. Any desire they may feel to engage and learn is drowned out by a perpetual, gnawing hunger. Some lay their heads on their desks, unable to think about adding, subtracting or learning to read. They are more likely wondering whether there will be something — anything — to eat today. They dream of simple things, like a bowl of rice and beans. A piece of fish. Half a loaf of bread.

If left untreated, a child’s malnourishment can lead to lifelong health problems, including blindness, stunted growth and sometimes even death. That’s why a big part of Cross Catholic Outreach’s ministry is centered on nourishing hungry children

The Gift of Liquid Nutrition

Across the world, we are feeding daily meals to tens of thousands of boys and girls through school-based nutrition programs and to hungry families with Vitafood, pre-packaged meals full of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, fat and carbohydrates that hungry bodies need.

Related: Fighting Malnutrition by Feeding the Hungry With Vitafood

In Guatemala and other countries where childhood hunger is an extreme problem, we’re also fighting chronic malnutrition with milk.

The full-cream powdered milk we provide to help our ministry partners like the sisters caring for Tatiana, is one of the most important resources we can offer to combat chronic childhood malnutrition.

It’s an affordable and easy-to-use source of nutrition that can help children regain their health and grow properly. Powdered milk is a concentrated form of milk that has been dehydrated and turned into a powder. It’s full of nutrients — a rich and affordable source of calcium, protein, potassium, vitamins A and D, and other essential nutrients for healthy growth.

CCO provides powdered milk to malnourished children like Tatiana in Guatemala each day. The milk helps to restore their health and vitality, and it also provides the nutrition they need to grow and develop properly. With the help of CCO, many children have been able to overcome chronic malnutrition and lead healthy, productive lives.

Milk, Wonderful Milk

The vitamin-packed milk powder we provide is a favorite with our in-country partners, the children we’re saving from malnutrition, and our generous donors.   

It’s remarkable how much our in-country ministry partners like the sisters can do with just a little help from us. The way they stretch resources reminds me of the miracle of the fish and the loaves. We share the desire to stretch resources in order to provide meals, milk, medicine and more to children like Tatiana. This chain reaction of compassion that leads to help and hope for children begins with supporters like you.  

Your gift for milk is a powerful response to the problem of chronic malnourishment.
Your gift for milk is a powerful response to the problem of chronic malnourishment.

As you read this post today, I hope you’ll consider helping us provide other precious children like Tatiana with the delicious, nutritious, vitamin-packed gift of milk.

It’s amazing how something so simple — and so often taken for granted in the U.S. — can do so much good to children living in the developing world. Your kindness today will do more than make a childlike Tatiana smile. It will help safeguard her against the malnutrition that’s taking such a toll on innocent children in Guatemala.

Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.