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Government prioritizes nutritional health among children

The state has continued prioritising on the strengthening of nutrition and child protection intervention through a multi sectoral project dubbed Nutrition Improvement through Cash and Health Education (NICHE).

NICHE which aims at ensuring most vulnerable children in the intervention areas show improved wellbeing and combine nutrition counseling and exclusively breastfeeding, improve hygiene, dietary improvement and Cash transfers (top-ups) to enhance the health outcomes for both women and children in the 5 beneficiary counties of Kitui, Kilifi, West Pokot, Marsabit and Turkana.

Kitui Governor, Julius Malombe received accolades from the Ministry of Health and development partners for the County’s performance in the project that he initiated in 2016.

The programme was officially implemented in 2019 by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection (MLSP) and launched in West Pokot County in Kapenguria Town, with the leadership of the Department of Children Services, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), with UNICEF and Action against Hungers (ACF), serving as the technical assistance providers.

Speaking during a high level orientation and advocacy meeting on NICHE, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore, stated that poverty and vulnerability has many facets with nutrition forming a critical part in addressing it.

Bore said that National Social Protection Policy 2011 appreciated this reality and provides for increased coordination and integration of the social protection sector.

”The revised Social Protection Policy which is in the process of finalisation focuses on the life cycle approach and builds on the older policy,” said Bore.

She noted that the distinguished sensitisation platform presents an opportunity for the new leadership to understand the scope of operations, the institutional arrangements and specific roles desired in promoting and advancing the nation’s aspiration of alleviating poverty and vulnerability through integrated efforts.

With a view to promoting integrated approach to social protection interventions, the state department for social protection and senior citizens’ affairs in collaboration with relevant line ministries, departments, counties, agencies and development partners through World Bank financing, designed the Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Programme [KSEIP] are yet to improve more lives.

According to Bore, NICHE falls under component two of the KSEIP rides on the existing Inua Jamii programmes to provide top up cash payments for improvement of nutritional status of children under 3 years.

On her part the Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha highlighted that NICHE orientation meeting came at a time when the state was battling impacts of prolonged drought and floods that have adversely affected household food security and nutrition status of many Kenyan homes.

Nakhumicha reiterated that with the available advanced scientific knowledge in the cause and etiology of malnutrition, its eradication is a matter of political commitment and prioritization stating that the government comprehends the importance of nutrition and will put it in its rightful place in the economic development of the state.

She revealed that the country has made significant progress in reducing malnutrition in the past two decades with the proportion of children under the age of five who are stunted reducing from 35 percent in 2003 to 18 percent in 2022.

”There exists wide regional variation in the distribution of malnutrition with some counties having very high prevalence of stunting of over 30 percent while others have as low as 9 percent,” said Nakhumicha

”The three counties with the highest stunting levels are among the 5 counties implementing the NICHE,” she added

In his speech Kilifi County Governor Gideon Mung’aro, which was read on his behalf by his Deputy Governor, Flora Mbetsa he stated that his county is indeed privileged to be among the 5 counties implementing the NICHE program in the country.

Mbetsa brought to light that malnutrition among children below five years remains to be a challenge in Kilifi noting that 4 in every 10 children in the County are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.

She said that the pockets of Magarini, Ganze and Kaloleni sub counties have been affected the most, disclosing that 1 in every 2 children below five years are stunted.

”Kilifi County is among the topmost counties in Kenya with the highest proportion of children below the age of five years that are stunted,” said Mung’aro

Mbetsa publicized that from the 2019 Violence Against Children (VAC) survey, Kilifi is one of the leading counties in violence against children and the child protection component in NICHE is paramount to address it.

By Fatma Said

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