The number of mothers who breastfeed their children exclusively for the first six months in Elgeyo Marakwet has risen from 42.9 per cent to 62.9 per cent since the launch of the Enhancing Nutrition Services to Improve Maternal and Child Health (Enrich) programme in 2016 according to the programme nutrition officer Irene Kwamboka.
The officer said this was achieved through the formation of 485 community-based neighbour peer groups who enhanced public awareness saying breastfeeding was key in addressing cases of malnutrition and stunted growth among children aged 0-5 years which is prevalent in the county.
“The improvement in the number of breastfeeding mothers was ranked among the factors that have contributed to the improvement of health among babies,” she said.
As the Sh492 million programme supported by World Vision Canada comes to an end on September 30, Ms. Kwamboka urged the county government to procure micro-nutrient powders in health facilities across the county to improve the health of children aged 6-24 months old.
She was speaking during the transition ceremony of the Enrich programme from World Vision to the county government which was presided over by Governor Alex Tolgos at the Cheptebo Agricultural Training Centre.
The governor said the programme had seen the improvement of the health of 104 malnourished children, reached 74,347 children for various health interventions in addition to strengthening the county health systems by equipping 130 health facilities with assorted medical equipment worth Sh50 million to provide integrated nutrition services.
He said that the consumption of nutritional foods such as the orange fleshed sweet potatoes and iron rich beans introduced by Enrich improved the general health of the residents in the county.
“There has been an increased uptake of nutritional foods as well as iron and folic acid supplements by pregnant women which has helped strengthen and improve the health of pregnant mothers and infants,” he said.
The Governor assured the donors of the continuity of the programme and urged residents to attend public participation to allocate funds to the programme so that it can continue benefiting the residents as World Vision closes its chapter.
The Deputy County Commissioner Keiyo North Julius Maiyo said that the improvement of nutrition among mothers and babies is key because it is in line with the Big Four agenda that the government intends to achieve.
The County Executive Committee for health in Elgeyo Marakwet County Anita Kimwattan said that the programme was a major boost to the health of unborn babies as pregnant women are trained on the importance during antenatal visits.
She added that the Enrich Programme has helped the government in the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by ensuring the access to quality healthcare.
Maternal health and child nutrition was one of the key areas that the Enrich programme focused on during its five years existence in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
By Alice Wanjiru