POSTED July 26, 2021
Lessons from the pandemic: boosting children’s immune systems so they thrive
Jorge, our country director in Paraguay, shares learnings on how we can help more children grow happy and healthy
By Jorge Méndez Rheineck, country director, Paraguay
The global pandemic has led to sickness, death, loneliness, uncertainty and hopelessness. At the same time, it revealed the strength of our body’s natural immune system.
Certainly, while this outbreak reminds us of our limitations, it also gives us an historic opportunity to appreciate our physical and mental strength as human beings.
How can we use our immune system to our advantage?
The data: Our immune system provides the basic conditions to challenge and defeat COVID-19 and its mutations as well as any other pathogens, virus, bacteria or fungi. Case in point: “As long as the immune system is functioning normally, infections such as COVID-19 go unnoticed,” reports the Journal of Infection and Public Health.
While the immune system is weakened by pre-existing health conditions or multiple scenarios that complicate treatment of COVID-19, it’s also capable of developing a natural and strong immunity to the virus, thanks to memory cells.
Applying this to our work: So, as we continue to build strong immune systems in our programs, we can also help children grow to be resilient, healthier and happier. This is so not only because of the protection the immune system will give them, but also because a healthy immune system requires healthy habits.
What does a strengthened immune system really mean for a child’s health?
The data: The strengthening of our immune system requires specific eating and lifestyle habits, which, in general, can be adopted by children with support from adults.
In addition to healthy eating, it’s important to drink sufficient and clean water, get enough restful sleep, practise prudent physical activity and get exposure to the sunlight, reports the Journal of Infection and Public Health.
It’s also necessary to breathe clean air as well as take part in activities that nourish mental health, tranquility and peace. Furthermore, it’s important to build relationships with others and contact with nature and domestic animals.
All these requirements strengthen our immune system and help develop our full potential in a sustainable, healthy and rewarding way.
Applying this to our work: In the communities where we work, these habits imply changes to socially, culturally rooted habits, which children may be more willing to change. The hardest challenge would be changing adult habits due to current health systems and consumption cultures.
How is Children Believe addressing the root causes of COVID-19’s impact?
Children Believe is committed to optimizing the social impact of our sponsors’ treasured support. So, in the midst of this pandemic, we remain as cost-effective and efficient as possible.
Thus, the quick, timely and critical support we already provide to children and families in our programs, shouldn’t prevent us from offering them solutions to address root causes of childhood vulnerabilities. Among these, a poor immune response due to unhealthy lifestyles that make the impacts of this virus more devastating.
The pandemic reminds us a child can only develop his and her full potential through a strong immune system. In addition, since families, schools and communities need to be involved in building this capability, they will also benefit.
In consequence, Children Believe reinforced its global strategy to tackle the most urgent needs of children and families, without losing sight of the opportunity this pandemic represents for improving children’s, families’ and communities’ health and quality of life.
We are incorporating this approach across our programmatic strategic “pathways” for social impact, especially focusing on healthy communities, education and child-participation (More about our Pathways here).
One of the most valued and enduring legacies we can leave to children and families we serve is to instil the knowledge, attitude and abilities to value and optimize their lives, starting from building healthy immune systems. This will have holistic, sustainable effects. We’re mindful of the great potential it has in becoming a significant value-add to public health and education systems.