From Fri Nov 22 13:30:17 2002
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 10:21:47 -0600 (CST)
From: Nicaragua Network <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 147259
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Cases of Kwashiorkor in Coffee Areas Alarm U.N. Agency but not Health Ministry

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 18 November 2002

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health downplayed the importance of the concern expressed by the World Food Program (WFP) about a rising incidence of Kwashiorkor, a severe form of malnutrition, in the coffee-growing areas of Nicaragua. Kwashiorkor, also known as protein-deficiency malnutrition, has not been as common in Nicaragua as marasmas, or calorie-deficiency malnutrition, because Nicaragua's traditional diet of beans and corn tortillas provides all nine amino acids of a complete protein diet. The problem in Nicaragua traditionally has been to get enough food, not the type of food. But with tens of thousands of families without a source of income due to the drop in coffee prices, the more serious kwashiorkor has raised its ugly head in the north of the country.

In a statement, WFP representative Krystyna Bednarska stated that the presence of this type of malnutrition in any part of the world is a cause for concern. We cannot close our eyes in the face of the serious situation faced by families in the coffee zone, Bednarska noted. She continued, Women and children are those who suffer most when there is a food crisis.

Symptoms of kwashiorkor include water retention with generalized inflammation, severe diarrhea, respiratory infections, and skin diseases. Children are the most affected and often die.

UNICEF and the Nicaraguan Health Ministry have reported that among 10,924 children under five who were camped with their parents at highway intersections all over the coffee region of the country in September of this year, 45% suffered from chronic malnutrition. This in contrast to 25% among the national population of children under five, according to a study carried out in 1998.

However, Ligia Yllescas of the Health Ministry's nutrition department said that Kwashiorkor has always existed in Nicaragua. It's like cholera which disappears and then appears again. Yllescas added that the problem of malnutrition in the country resulted from lack of education, from the fact that the mothers do not know that breast milk is the best for babies and that children should eat three full meals a day. Henry Davila, a government official in Matagalpa, chimed in with, Living with cases of kwashiorkor in Nicaragua is just as common as seeing cases of lice.

Karla Somarriba, of the WFP's emergency food plan, said that the distribution of 1,936 hundred pound bags of corn and beans as well as hundreds of bottles of cooking oil will begin soon for 10,000 pregnant and nursing women, as well as 7,500 children, in the north of Nicaragua, with the goal of alleviating and preventing kwashiorkor.

Somarriba stated that the distribution will take place in the municipalities of Matagalpa, San Ramon, El Tuma-La Dalia and Rancho Grande, will last three months and will cost a total of US$230,259.