Guide mothers: providing health support for children in Bolivia

By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
Photo: As a baby, Ingela received support from ChildFund Bolivia’s guide mothers

Photo: As a baby, Ingela received support from ChildFund Bolivia’s guide mothers

Sapahaqui is a rural area three hours from Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. Here, ChildFund Bolivia is supporting a key initiative which focuses on the training of community health volunteers, also known as guide mothers.

Guide mothers are responsible for visiting parents in the community to monitor children’s health and development. They teach caregivers how best to support children, and also take part in community-wide health monitoring events, held regularly at the local Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, with doctors on site.

At one session in 2014, the guide mothers met Ingela, a baby girl. She was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Her mother Cristina had 11 other children, with six-month-old Ingela being the youngest, and she was very worried.

The doctor’s diagnosis was clear: Ingela needed medical attention in the city because the community health centre didn’t have enough resources to help her. Unfortunately, Cristina did not have enough money to go to the city to get support; and had been giving Ingela only natural medicines and infusions. With this information, staff took Cristina and Ingela to the nearest hospital in El Alto City.

The diagnosis: severe anaemia, malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia.

After a month in the hospital, Ingela had gained weight. The family received support from ChildFund throughout Ingela’s complete recovery: working with social services at the hospital to ensure Ingela received medicine, treatment and a bed at the hospital.

Two years later, Ingela is healthy and developing well, according to the results of her last visit to the ECD Centre with her mother for health monitoring.

“Those days were so hard for us,” Cristina remembers. “I didn’t have enough milk for Ingela, or money to save her. I am very grateful for the project and to ChildFund for all the advice and support.”

Photo: Ingela is now healthy and developing well – thanks to assistance from ChildFund Bolivia

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