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Peruvian Partnership Provides Atmit, Hope

May 2012

We were on the shoulder of the Peruvian Andes near the Ecuadorian border but so far off the beaten path that not even Google EarthTM ventured to go there. Along with a small, Church video crew, I had flown to Piura, about an hour north of Lima by air. When the paved road turned to dirt east of Chulucanas, we started to climb to our destination—another four hours distant.

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Lagunas is perched on a steep mountain slope—so steep that it prevents harvesting machinery from operating there. Most people in Lagunas and in the dozens of nearby highland villages are subsistence farmers. They work with hand tools for 10–12 hours a day, preparing or maintaining their fields or harvesting their crops of corn, potatoes, cassava, and even rice that grows in stream-fed paddies in the canyon bottoms.

The cornfields surrounding Lagunas are planted in small terraces actually created by cow paths. On many hillsides they are also planted among large boulders. Growing conditions are so difficult that no land goes to waste.

Extreme living conditions

“Hunger is a very important issue here,” said Alex Guyeber Cordova Castillo, governor of the Lagunas district. “This is one of the poorest districts in the country. We have a very long dry season, and it’s hard to produce any food at all. We don’t have water until the rain comes. Then, when the rains do come, roads get damaged to some of the villages and people become isolated. It’s impossible to get food and products to them.”

Because of these extreme living conditions, LDS Charities partnered with Sembrando—the humanitarian organization of the First Lady of Peru—to distribute school kits, hygiene kits, and Atmit to families and small children in the isolated villages.

Over 45,000 school and hygiene kits were assembled by one thousand young LDS Institute men and women in Lima. Contents for the kits were purchased in Peru by LDS Charities.

“It’s something my people could never buy on their own,” said Governor Cordova. “Our children are very happy and they appreciate it so much. As governor, I thank and congratulate [the Institute students] for making this possible. I hope the Lord will bless them for everything they did.”

Atmit is a nutritional porridge formulated by LDS Charities and other humanitarian organizations. LDS Charities began using Atmit as a life-saving food supplement during the Ethiopian famine of 2003. It has since been distributed in 15 countries on four continents.

“Atmit is an excellent source of nutrition,” said Elder James W. Hansen, M.D., Ph.D., a medical advisor and a missionary for the Church Welfare Services Department. “It is a milk-containing, oat-flour-based nutritional product that is a good complement to whatever nutrition might be available from local sources.”

A single serving of Atmit provides 34 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein, 43 percent of calcium, 99 percent of iron, and high percentages for a dozen vitamins and minerals for children under five years old. This formula helps them maintain some nutrition over a short period of time until crops are harvested and they can again thrive on a regular family diet.

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The value of partnerships

For eight years, LDS Charities has worked in Peru with Sembrando. Peruvian First Lady Pilar Nores de Garcia made an appeal to the South America Northwest Area Presidency of the Church for in-kind assistance of Atmit, school kits, and hygiene kits. These products would supplement existing programs that address malnutrition, literacy, hygiene, and sanitation in more than 200 rural communities in the rural highlands of Peru. As a result of these programs, some areas have seen up to a 60 percent reduction in diarrheal and respiratory infections.

Our visit coincided with the start of the First Lady’s 40-day tour of remote villages. We caught up with her in Lucumo—a one-hour drive up another winding mountain road from Lagunas. As in Lagunas, life was hard in Lucumo. Children are undernourished; adults constantly worry about their next meal.

At Lucumo, hygiene and nutrition were taught to families by Sembrando volunteers. In addition, hygiene and school kits, along with vitamins and hand-sanitizing products, were distributed. Each child under five also received a 2-kilo (4.4 pound) bag of ATMIT—enough to supplement their diet for about one month.

Throughout the Andean highlands, a total of 30,000 men, women, and children benefitted from the project.

“I thank the Church of Jesus Christ [of Latter-day Saints], and I thank God that he has allowed you and your members to be helping us,” said Governor Cordova. “If we all work together, we can accomplish something to fight poverty and to fight hunger.”

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