Gov't programme fights student hunger in Peruvian Amazon
Hunger haunts the jungle home of the Ashaninka.
Incursions and assaults by loggers, miners, colonists and Shining Path rebels have reduced the lands of the Ashaninka people in the Peruvian Amazon, leaving many of the 97,000 members of the group malnourished.
The problem may be worst among children.
The Ashaninka Ene River Association, known by its Spanish initials CARE, says some 80 per cent of children under age five suffer chronic malnutrition. That's reflected in abysmal education levels. Last year, only five per cent of students in the region passed an evaluation exam administered by the association and the government.
One government programme aims at schoolchildren, bringing food to about 3,200 students in 54 communities along the Ene River basin.
For the students sharing battered wooden desks in dirt-floor schoolhouses, the programme supplies food such as milk, fishmeal and the nutritious Andean grain quinoa.
That ended, though, when the year's classes wound up in November.
Until classes resume in March, it's back to the staples of manioc, a starchy tuber, and masato, a fermented drink made from the plant.
In the Ashaninka village of Potsoteni, there are also tropical fruits such as bananas and mangoes, sometimes a little chicken or fish caught from the river, which also provides drinking water and a place to bathe.
Nestor Alvarado, who's in the fifth year of secondary school, said that when classes are out, he also traps birds, worms and insects. But "every day there's less in the countryside".
Government officials are trying to encourage good nutrition, distributing books that villagers read by flashlight due to the lack of electric power.