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Government in multi-billion social protection programme bolster plan

Marsabit County is among five targeted devolved units in a nutrition improvement project by the national government targeting children under two years, pregnant and lactating mothers.

The Sh26.5 billion (250 million dollars) project that would be implemented through the cash transfer and health education programmes that are currently running would benefit 23,500 households.

Deputy Director for Children Services Mr Morris Zuma said 138, 600 beneficiaries in Kitui, Kilifi, West Pokot, Turkana and Marsabit counties are targeted in the project that will run for five years. The programme is aimed at improving children’s nutritional status during their first 1, 000 days beginning in utero to the second year of life outside the womb.

Deputy Director for Children Services Mr. Moris Zuma gives an overview of the NICHE programme that is being implemented in Marsabit County.

Mr Zuma told high level consultative meetings with the national and county governments’ leadership in the county, stakeholders and the implementing technical team that stunted growth due to undernourishment had informed the decision to undertake the project.

The nutrition improvement through Cash and Heath Education (NICHE) is part of the Kenya Social Economic Inclusion Project (KSEIP) that would ensure that every two children aged two years and below as well as pregnant and lactating mothers in cash transfer households receive a top up of 100 per person.  The programme is being implemented through the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection while the National Drought Management Authority is the lead agency.

Marsabit Deputy Governor Solomon Gubo said the issue of nutrition was key in the region because of adverse weather conditions that deprived residents, majority of whom were pastoralists, a source of livelihood.

“Communities in Marsabit are 80 per cent pastoralists who purely depend on livestock as their source of sustenance but which is continually being disrupted by droughts leading to deprivation,” said Mr Gubo adding that the county government would ensure that the project is implemented without any hitches.

The deputy governor pointed out that resources could never be enough and welcomed the gesture by the national government saying the partnership between the two levels of government was of essence for enhanced development. He noted that nutrition improvement would greatly give push to efforts being applied to alleviate poverty among the residents.

The government project is being funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank while UNICEF is offering the technical assistance to ensure that the NICHE is integrated into the existing OVC, OPCT, PWSD and HSNP cash transfer programmes.

A nutrition specialist with UNICEF Tom Amolo said the project was initiated following a study carried out in Kitui and West Pokot counties over an alarming 5% stunted growth among children as a result of malnutrition. Amolo added that the research informed the need for a nutrition counselling among the communities with high levels of deprivation.

UNICEF will run a technical component of the project through capacity building and training to the implementing teams as well as midwifing between the two levels of government for leverage and smooth realization of the project.

“UNICEF will provide technical support needed for the implementation of the programme for three years after which the government will oversee it,” Amolo said adding that the project will also provide ground for shock-responsive safety nets for the vulnerable households.

Marsabit Central Deputy County Commissioner Patrick Muriira who received the team on behalf of the County Commissioner Evans Achoki said that drought and now the desert locust invasion remains a big challenge to the attainment of accepted nutrition levels in the county.

Muriira said that restored security and the existing peaceful coexistence among communities should provide a conducive environment for the project to be carried out as expected.

He called for collaboration with other agencies involved in the improvement of nutrition for households in the county for easier execution of the programme.

Present included County Secretary Joseph Guyo and the County Coordinator for Children Services Simon Ogao and County Director for Preventive and Promotive Health Services Hassan Halakhe among others.

The consultative meetings were aimed at collecting views for an operational manual that will be universally used in the five counties under the programme.

The National Treasury will budget for the top up cash every financial year to ensure that it flows with the existing stipends being offered by the government.

By Sebastian Miriti

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