|© UNICEF Peru/2006/Perellon|
|Community leader Santos Ramos plays with young children from the Huama community in Peru’s Lamay District as part of an early stimulation programme.|
By Carlos Perellon
NEW YORK, USA, 29 June 2006 – The people from the Huama community in the Peruvian Andes know exactly what they want.
Some 200 families live in this community located at 3,700 metres altitude in the Lamay District. Accessible only by a winding, unpaved road, the village is surrounded by green mountains with perennial snows at their peaks.
Every two years, the villagers choose their community leaders, promoters and counsellors in charge of health, nutrition and water. All decisions are jointly taken in a general assembly where the community members vote to accept or reject proposals.
This is the villagers’ traditional way of making decisions, but the proposals they have been considering since 2001 – when a community health initiative with UNICEF and its partners was launched – are new, involving issues such as child malnutrition, early stimulation, health monitoring and life-skills education.
New ideas, traditional ways
Santos Ramos is a former health promoter and spokesperson for the community. Using drawings made by the people of Huama with the help of UNICEF and World Vision trainers, he shows how malnutrition was ravaging the community five years ago, and how the situation has improved.
|© UNICEF Peru/2006/Romero|
|Instructional drawings provide information about basic health concerns for villagers.|
“Now the children have a good weight, good height – although of course some are not perfect, there are some who escape our supervision,” he says. “But all in all, 95 per cent, almost 100 per cent, are OK.”
One other area that has shown great improvement is early childhood development. Mixing new ideas with traditional ways, fathers are now more involved and spend more time with their children. They make new toys out of everyday objects like bottles, ribbons and boxes, creating games that stimulate children and teach them concepts of colour, space and volume.
Health monitoring system
To address their main concern – the health of their children – the people of Huama have developed a monitoring system. A health counsellor visits families every week with a visual booklet that is used to check the condition of children and pregnant women.
The booklet has drawings for different categories: diarrhoea, clean hands, breastfeeding, recreation, good nutrition and so on. When the health promoters visit children’s homes, they check off each column to reflect the status of the child.
The same process happens with expectant women. The counsellor visits their homes and checks different categories: whether they eat well, rest, bleed, lose fluids or have swollen feet. Each category is checked next to the name of the future mother.
All the information taken in the different sectors of the village is later transferred to poster boards located in the health centre, where the names of all children are listed along with data about their status. By referring to the boards, the health counsellors know exactly who needs care.