WHO WE ARE
In 2000, Susan Ritchie travelled to North Korea as an interpreter with a Canadian fact-finding delegation. On her trip, she encountered a nursing mother, Kim Soon Nyo, who didn’t have enough food to feed her twins. As a mother with an infant son herself, Susan was deeply moved and made a commitment in her heart to serve the Lord in North Korea. On her return to Vancouver, she along with a few volunteers, launched First Steps and have been helping mothers in North Korea ever since.
MALNUTRITION IN NORTH KOREA
According to the most recent statistics, one in four children suffer from malnutrition in North Korea. A young child’s critical period of physical and mental development – from pregnancy to 24 months – is threatened by malnutrition.
OUR WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
North Korea, with a population of about 24.4 million, has experienced ongoing food shortages ever since the 1990s. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under five years of age are most vulnerable to these shortages. They are at risk of becoming malnourished because their diets lack sufficient vitamins, fat, minerals and protein.
Pregnant and nursing women are at an increased risk of undernutrition because their nutritional needs are high. Poorly nourished women are likely to be deficient in vitamins and minerals, deliver low-birth-weight babies and be unable to produce nutrient-rich breastmilk. Low birth-weight babies who do not receive much needed nutrition-rich breastmilk are prone to infection, diarrhea, pneumonia, and chronic malnutrition.
The combination of undernutrition with other factors like poor maternal health, limited access to quality health care, and lack of clean water has caused nearly one in four young children in North Korea to be stunted. Not only does stunting impact a child’s physical development, it damages their learning capacity and productivity during adulthood. Because stunting develops before a child turns two, the “window of opportunity” to prevent the irreversible consequences of this condition is from pregnancy to 24 months old.
SYMPTOMS OF MALNUTRITION
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