Written by Obed Simiyu
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Currently, the growth of 2.1 million Kenyan children under the age of five years is stunted limiting the realization of their full physical and mental potential.
Malnutrition is a condition that develops when the body does not get the proper amount of nutrients that are needed to keep the body healthy and functioning well.
Anyone can suffer from malnutrition regardless of age or financial status thus the need to have concerted efforts to fight it.
Levels of malnutrition - both chronic and acute- remain unacceptably high in Kenya.
According to health officers, around 30 per cent of child deaths in Kenya can be directly attributed to malnutrition.
Well aware of this worrying condition, in 2007 the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with UNICEF introduced the Malezi Bora Initiative to increase the utilization, and improve delivery of, routine, evidence-based health and nutrition services for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers in Kenya.
They were joined by partners of goodwill including PSI, in pooling resources and offering technical assistance in an attempt to improve maternal and child survival situation in Kenya.
The Malezi bora weeks are observed twice a year, in May and in November. During these week’s free health and nutrition services are offered at Maternal and Child health clinics at all public facilities in Kenya to: children under five, expectant women as well as lactating mothers.
This year’s theme for the Malezi bora weeks is “Together Let Us Fight Malnutrition”.
The Objective is to draw in Expectant women and Mothers of children under five, who may have not had access to routine health and nutrition services, or may have relapsed at some point during their child’s first year of life.
According to Ms Assumpta Matekwa, a health officer at the Western Province headquarters in Kakamega speaking on behalf of the sector, the services offered during the Malezi bora weeks include immunization, provision of Vitamin A supplements, protection against malaria, advice on breastfeeding and nutrition for families, de-worming, weight monitoring for children, care for expectant mothers and advice on hygiene and treatment of illnesses such as diarrhea.
Therefore, for adequate realization of the children’s right to basic nutrition as entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya, acceleration of nutrition interventions is necessary.
Over the past ten years, adequate evidence has been accumulated to enable the identification of key interventions which, if implemented at scale, are proven to have an impact on malnutrition and the associated morbidity and mortality.
Kenya’s High Impact Nutrition Interventions are promotion of Exclusive Breast feeding for the first six months of life, promotion of optimal complementary feeding for infants after the age of six months, Vitamin A Supplementation (2 doses per year for children 6-59 months), Zinc supplementation for diarrhoea management ,multiple-micronutrients for children under five years, de-worming for children (2 doses per year for children 12-59 months), iron-folic acid supplementation for pregnant mothers, prevention or treatment of severe Acute Malnutrition and moderate Acute Malnutrition, promotion of improved hygiene practices including hand washing, salt Iodization and iron fortification of staple foods.
Mothers also play abig role in ensuring this situation is improved by seeking nutrition counsel and advise as soon as she realizes she is pregnant, eating a variety diet during pregnancy and attending ANC clinic as advised by the health worker.
The mother can also help improve the situation by taking their babies regularly to the clinic for immunization, growth monitoring, vitamin A supplementation and exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of their baby’s life.
After six months, the mother should then feed the child with appropriate complimentary feeds, purchase fortified food stuffs such as maize flour, wheat flour, iodized salt and fats, ensure their children are de-wormed every six months and most importantly, ensure adequate spacing of births through use of family planning methods of their choice.
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