Malnutrition, lack of education and poverty affecting the children of the Ngäbe Buglé (northwest) region of Panama, are gradually being brought down with the execution of a comprehensive program to benefit some 5,000 indigenous children, their promoters reported today.
In the mountains of El Peñón, district of Ñurum, the faces of children and infants glimpse a relief to be part of the pilot project "Sow, Learn and Grow", an initiative that includes three approaches: food, quality of life and good health; and skills for school environment.
"This project has been implemented in five districts of the indigenous region, the idea is to spread it to other places and benefit 5,000 children," said Acting Minister of Social Development (Mides), Michelle Muschett, during the presentation of the initiative.
She said that this "community model of comprehensive care for children between 0 and 3 years old" is being implemented for the first time in the country, and its execution is based on Jamaica's "Reach Up and Learn" plan, which shows positive results in the group’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.
"We seek to take that comprehensive care that every child from 0 years to 36 months should receive, which is the crucial stage for every human being, precisely in rural communities, that are not reached by childhood care centers for the total of the population because they are very dispersed," she said.
The head of Mides said that the project Sow, Grow and Learn, which will run for a period of two years, is carried out in partnership with other government institutions, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and executed by the Panamanian Foundation Nutre Hogar.
She added that in the segment "Sow" about 100 families work in orchards using the method of biointensive crops to ensure the production and consumption of nutritional foods, while in the segmentt "Grow", which has the program "Taking Care of Yourself", and they have trained a battery of promoters to collaborate with the mothers of the children in the program.
"This project encourages mothers to give importance to educate and raise with love and celebrate the achievements of their children, key elements to ensure development in the first stage of their lives," said the official.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index of Children and Adolescents (IPM-NNA), endorsed by the UN and Oxford University, points out that multidimensional poverty affects, on average, 32.8 percent of children between 0 and 17 years in Panama, with an incidence of 45.6 percent.
Poverty, however, does not affect all provinces equally and increases considerably in the indigenous districts of Guna Yala, Ngäbe-Buglé and Emberá, where the index reaches 99.3 percent, 95.4 percent and 81 percent, respectively.
Panama already launched in 2017 a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) at a broader level, which is updated annually and in its last installment reports that about 778,000 people live in poverty, representing 19.1 percent of the Panamanian population.
The meeting was also attended by Miss Panama 2018, Rosa Iveth Montezuma, representative of the Belgium-origin indigenous communities of Ngäbe Buglé.
"For me it is very important to be close to the people that belong to me, which is my family," said the candidate regarding the community, while advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.