It was 2008 when Barrick decided to contribute $2 million over a three-year period to help improve child nutrition and maternal health near its mining operations in the Ancash and La Libertad regions of Peru. Beyond Borders looks at the impact Barrick’s funding has had on improving the nutrition and health of mothers and children in nearly two dozen communities in these regions closest to its Pierina mine.
Malnutrition is a serious health problem that increases the risk of disease and can lead to early death. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under the age of five in developing countries. Thankfully, malnutrition can be treated and avoided through proper prevention programs.
Barrick worked closely with local governments and health officials to ensure the most effective use of its funding to battle the devastating health condition and help contribute to future economic development in the country.
A World Bank report warns malnutrition helps perpetuate poverty, costing developing nations up to three percent of their annual gross domestic product. What’s more, malnourished children are at risk of losing more than 10 percent of their lifetime earnings potential, the study shows.
Chronic malnutrition in children is a big issue in Peru, says Alfredo Anderson, Barrick’s Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility in Peru.
“At Barrick, we felt it was important to invest in fighting this health condition. If we want to provide communities with lasting benefits we should invest in children,” he says. “They are the future.”
Barrick worked closely with doctors and nurses in Peru as well as community health agents, agriculture experts and municipal authorities to implement programs, including direct care of children and pregnant women suffering from malnutrition.
Women and children were provided with iron, vitamin A and zinc supplements necessary to help boost the immune system and fight off infections and diarrhea which, if severe, can cause death. There was also increased access to health services such as prenatal care, birth support and immunizations, and education around health and nutrition for new and expecting mothers.
The program also helped educate mothers on the causes of malnutrition, which is not only caused by having too little food to eat, but also results from misguided infant feeding and care practices and poor access to health services, or poor sanitation. It focused on pregnant women, and children below the age of five, in particular those in their first year of life, which is a crucial period for growth and brain development.
Funding was also used to help train mothers on what nutrients to feed their children, and to teach local farmers how to improve nutrients in crops and increase production. Education on how to access and improve health services in the region was also provided.
“We focused not only on recovering children that were malnourished, but preventing new cases in the future,” Anderson says.
The program had proven results, including a nine percent drop in chronic malnutrition rates among children under age three, according to Anderson. What’s more, there was not one case of chronic malnutrition reported among children under the age of one.
Barrick is now working with local government and health officials to fund another program to help maintain these positive results and hopefully lead to further improvements, Anderson says.
“We are not leaving it to fate,” says Anderson. “We are working with the regional government to implement a second-stage program to help strengthen local health services.”
Results so far: