Nutri-Salud Supports the Revitalization of Guatemala's National Commission to Promote Breastfeeding

The 1979 International Year of the Child motivated Guatemala's government to promote breastfeeding to reduce infant malnutrition and mortality. To that end, the government created the National Commission for the Promotion of Breastfeeding (CONAPLAM) in 1981 and attached it to the Secretariat of Social Welfare of the Presidency (SBS). Over time, SBS and MOH responsibilities shifted; while the MOH retained responsibility to implement CONAPLAM activities, only SBS had the authority to do so. At present, the MOH is charged with assuming leadership of CONAPLAM, but there are still legalities necessary to transfer the commission from the SBS to the MOH.

The Guatemalan government vowed to tackle malnutrition in 2012 through the National Zero Hunger Pact. The pact commits the administration to reduce chronic malnutrition in children under five by 10% (from 49.8%). The pact is being operationalized through a 2012-2016 plan that includes specific nutrition interventions, such as the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Presently, only 49.6% of infants under six months receive exclusive breastfeeding (National Maternal and Child Health Survey, ENSMI 2008-2009) and, according to a recent survey of the Western Highlands, only 39.8% of children 6 to 23 months old receive a minimum acceptable diet (USAID, 2013).

The Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MOH) considered reviving CONAPLAM in support of the pact. In early 2014, a partnership was formed between the MOH, PAHO/WHO, the Nutrition Institute of Central America and Panama (INCAP), and the USAID Nutri-Salud project to (a) review the legal framework related to the regularization of CONAPLAM and (b) develop CONAPLAM's 2014–2018 Strategic Plan. The partnership's work to revise the legal framework of CONAPLAM is critical in sustainably establishing the commission within the MOH.

Nutri-Salud recently assessed CONAPLAM's legal framework and the feasibility of embedding CONAPLAM in the MOH. During the second quarter of 2014 (April through June), Nutri-Salud provided recommendations to the MOH and CONAPLAM and revised the 2014–2018 CONAPLAM Strategic Plan to (1) improve CONAPLAM management, (2) strengthen it to be able to meet its mandate, (3) clarify the importance of breastfeeding/ infant complementary feeding, (4) develop the internal regulation of CONAPLAM, (5) develop a training program for its members, and (6) monitor and evaluate its activities and results. If the recommendations are accepted, all stakeholders will have a stronger foothold, a better place to stand in ensuring that all Guatemalan babies get the lifesaving nutrition they deserve and the best start to their first 1000 days.

As Nutri-Salud celebrates World Breastfeeding Week, it continues to strengthen local institutions that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and asserts the importance of increasing and sustaining activities in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) countdown, and beyond.

A new mother in the Highlands of Guatemala nurses her baby.
A new mother in the Highlands of Guatemala nurses her baby.
August 07, 2014
Regions/ Countries