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Esteban Bernal: "Child malnutrition is one of the worst problems in Ecuador"

Esteban Bernal.png

Photograph: Ecuador’s National Assembly

The Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion of Ecuador agreed to discuss plans for this effort to combat child malnutrition in the country, including that suffered by the children of migrants and refugees.

The Ecuadorian government estimates that there are half a million people from Venezuela in the country. Migratory flows have created new complexities in Ecuadorian society. According to Esteban Bernal, Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, the strategies to meet social demands, including the incidence of chronic child malnutrition, must be designed for everyone. According to him, the fight against this evil is a government priority.

“The best and the biggest public policy that the government has established is to reduce chronic child malnutrition. The President of the Republic is at the forefront of this policy. Having this CCM level of 27 percent, just below Guatemala, makes us reflect. It makes us identify it as one of the most serious issues that Ecuador has had”.

–Is there a policy to combat chronic child malnutrition of migrant children by your department?

–You cannot establish a public policy for 17 and a half million Ecuadorians, but for 18 million people who interact in this society. The Venezuelan people demand security, they demand education, health and of course, they also demand jobs and opportunities. Therefore, the action of the President of the Republic has been framed in having comprehensive public policies that go hand in hand with being able to contribute to every member of this society that interacts within our territory. Hence, we could not identify a public policy to reduce chronic child malnutrition in Venezuelan children. We generate comprehensive actions and in this context what must be done is to help reduce chronic child malnutrition. However, there is a particularity that is very important to evaluate. A little more than four out of every ten children who come from Venezuela have chronic childhood malnutrition. It is a percentage component which identifies it as an alert. It is even higher than that reported in Venezuelan territory itself. It is unrealistic to detail the public policy for Venezuelan children with CCM because they do not have a specific territory, they are throughout the national territory and therefore the policy must be wide-ranging.


–What exactly are the policies that you are going to develop in this regard?


–The creation and expansion of Child Development Centers, which help us throughout the handling process, of good food handling. To the above, add a project that is extremely significant. The delivery of at least 80 thousand bonds of 70 dollars each of them on the first stage. This is a bonus of the thousand days: the 270 days of natural gestation plus 730 days of the child's life. According to the experts, the evidence determines that by taking precautions for those thousand days, we would be guarding the reduction of chronic child malnutrition. To finance the battle, it is planned to sell the Banco del Pacífico and the shrimp lands that are under concession. This is an additional element that will allow Ecuador to have a far-reaching policy for the management of chronic child malnutrition. By joining the two resources, it will be possible to generate a capital that allows its profitability. The capital will not be touched. The proposal is that any future government safeguards the returns on this capital, so that it can be used directly for policies to reduce chronic child malnutrition. The amount, I would not dare to say, but it is a very considerable capital that will effectively generate profitability for the management of this policy.


–What have been the institutions that work with the MIES as one to serve the vulnerable community in human mobility?

–It is important that in this we give attention to the initial concept, the number of institutions are not only from the central government, they are also from the intersectoral ones, there are the decentralized autonomous governments. What I was telling you, we could not be calm with good food handling, with good follow-up in terms of health or identification of pregnant mothers, with follow-up or accompaniment, when we have terrible drinking water that; therefore, we have to generate a degree of all-inclusiveness. The same on the issue of environmental security for the area and rural sectors, which are the most vulnerable. That Commission or that Integration Department even incorporates companies, private companies incorporate, for example, universities, this means, it is a unification. There is also, for example, the State Bank to be able to channel resources aimed at decentralized autonomous governments, so that drinkable water and sewerage projects can be generated. So everything has a degree of diffused circular consequence for all the actors involved to work. That is why there is also the Ministry of the Environment.

–What institutions can parents turn to who cannot afford a balanced diet for their children due to lack of work or stability?

–Always to the MIES, always to us, the MIES not only has the capacity to be receptive, but also to identify. Our brigades, our educators, and our social workers are focused on permanently channeling the search for ranges of vulnerability. But here then there is a peculiarity. Note that the 1,000-day bonus is expected to have an identification but segmented for the start-up, because on average we need to cover 380,000 people among expecting mothers and children from zero to six months. However, just at this stage we are going to deliver 80 thousand. Therefore, we have to segment.


–Can any migrant person approach the MIES or do they need to have an Ecuadorian ID?

–No, I believe that, as I said, public policy is all-inclusive, it has to identify the people who interact within our society. The most appropriate thing is that there is legalization, but we cannot separate, in the coverage and social protection of a girl or boy who is at risk of chronic child malnutrition.

–Those who are not legalized in Ecuador, can still approach the MIES to receive a bonus?


–Not the bonus which is financed by the Ecuadorian government itself, but we have been working with the World Food Fund and with the Human Mobility Agency to generate bonuses for this particularity and for people in human mobility, which is a parallel program, but we are activating it.

–Through what organizations?

–Through various organizations. We were in a meeting with Unicef. We have been meeting with the World Food Fund, there are two organizations that have committed to the MIES for the generation of these bonds, which will allow us to specifically support people who are in human mobility. The two protection issues CDIs and the entire health system cannot be isolated to all the responsibility that we have as a State, with people who are in human mobility.

–Do you have a date, perhaps approximate for these bonds?

– I expect for the two bonds to start in parallel during the month of February 2022.

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