The government offers a “1,000-day bonus” program to help mother’s during pregnancy and for up to two years after the birth of their child, but making sure they register it is half the battle.
The Ecuadorian government has implemented a new strategy to address the high rates of chronic malnutrition in the country.
As part of this effort, the Technical Secretariat Ecuador Grows Without Child Malnutrition has developed a digital platform to track children under the age of two and pregnant women in vulnerable situations. The objective is to ensure that they receive timely medical attention and nutritional supplements.
The head of the Technical Secretariat, Erwin Ronquillo, explains that the platform monitors these individuals for the first 1,000 days of the children’s lives, starting from when women register their pregnancies with the Ministry of Health until the children reach two years of age. The personalized monitoring aims to ensure that mothers and children receive the necessary services to prevent chronic malnutrition, including access to vaccines, nutritional supplements, and monthly medical check-ups.
The platform also helps identify whether newborns have been registered in the Civil Registry and whether their parents have taken them for the required medical check-ups.
In cases where registration is lacking, an alert is raised to the Civil Registry, prompting their brigades to visit the families and register the child. For adolescent mothers, the Secretariat notifies the Ministry of Education to prevent them from dropping out of school and the Ministry of Economic Inclusion to facilitate their access to different bonuses.
Ronquillo emphasizes that chronic malnutrition is not solely caused by food scarcity but is exacerbated by structural factors such as limited access to basic services, inadequate medical attention, and parents’ level of education.
As of January 2023, the Government has identified 492,975 children under the age of two and 117,494 vulnerable mothers who can benefit from these tracking efforts.
Reducing chronic child malnutrition has been a priority for President Guillermo Lasso since taking office in May 2021. To understand the magnitude of the problem, one of the initial steps was conducting a new survey to update the figures. The latest official data available was from 2018.
The survey revealed that 27% of children under two years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition. In Ecuador, three out of 10 children have stunted growth in terms of height and weight. Unfortunately, these figures mean that has second highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the region, behind only Guatemala.
While the Government had pledged to publish the updated survey data by the end of 2022, Secretary Ronquillo acknowledges that a publication date has not yet been set. He explained that international organizations are currently validating the results to ensure impartiality, and the Government hopes to release the findings in the coming weeks.
The 1,000-Day Bonus
To support pregnant women in poverty and extreme poverty, the Government provides a financial aid program called the ‘1,000-day bonus.’ Currently, approximately 65,000 women receive this assistance, but the Government estimates that the number will increase to 85,000 by 2024.
Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, Esteban Bernal, explained that beneficiaries receive $50 per month from the time they register their pregnancies until their child turns two. Additional payments are made under specific conditions, including $90 if mothers complete at least four prenatal check-ups, $120 in the child’s first year if mothers attend at least six medical check-ups, and another $120 when the child turns two years old and has been taken to at least four medical check-ups.
To cover this aid program, the Government invests $55 million annually.
By implementing a digital tracking platform and providing financial assistance to vulnerable mothers, the Ecuadorian government aims to combat chronic malnutrition and improve the well-being of children and families across the country.