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NICHE program benefits vulnerable children, mothers

There is relief for vulnerable children under the age of two years, pregnant and lactating mothers in West Pokot and North Pokot Sub-counties after the government launched Nutrition Improvements through Cash and Health Education (NICHE) that will enable each household to receive Sh2,500 every month for upkeep in the fight against malnutrition.

Speaking during the launch, the NICHE programme stakeholders reiterated their commitment towards strong collaboration and coordination in the fight against poverty and diseases.

They called on residents to embrace proper dietary practices since it will assist to improve their nutrition, especially among mothers and babies.

The programme was launched by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection (MLSP) in West Pokot County at Psigirio Dispensary 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.

County Director of Children’s Services, Philip Wapopa, said Kenya has committed to the provision of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, amongst other global frameworks.

Wapopa, said West Pokot and North Pokot have so far registered 1,456 NICHE beneficiaries and 12,301 countrywide and urged vulnerable families who have not yet registered with the NICHE programme, to register for them to benefit from the noble initiative by the government and partners.

NICHE programme aims at cushioning vulnerable populations from the effects of extreme poverty and diseases.

“This programme will assist to protect the poorest and most disadvantaged residents, and contribute to efforts aimed at enhancing human capital by expanding opportunities in access to health and nutrition services subsequently leading to improvements in livelihoods, health and nutrition outcomes among the community members,” Wapopa explained.

He appealed for a strong collaboration and coordination between relevant stakeholders  such as  ministries, County government, development partners including World Bank, DFID, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger and other key stakeholders implementing partners,  noting their contributions is vital for the implementation of the programme and future expansion possibilities, to the remaining counties across the country.

The West Pokot County Commissioner, Apollo Okello, in a speech read on his behalf by the West Pokot Sub-County Assistant County Commissioner, Ruth Wachera, thanked the government and development partners for supporting the NICHE initiative.

He challenged the beneficiaries to effectively utilize the funds meant for empowering them positively in eradicating poverty and diseases associated with poor nutrition. Action Against Hunger (ACF), Health and Nutrition Coordinator, Ms Jemimah Khamadi, emphasized that lack of access to nutritious food is truly devastating to children and families.

She noted that the NICHE programme is a game-changer, for it will empower vulnerable families to improve their access to food, income and markets.

“NICHE programme will assist to improve the living standards of the vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating mothers and through the funds, they will be able to access necessities such as food and healthcare, ’’Ms Khamadi noted.

She reiterated the need of ensuring young children stay healthy and the importance of health workers being at the forefront in explaining to pregnant and lactating mothers, the importance of hygiene practices and nutrition for themselves and their children.

UNICEF Nutrition Support Officer, Elizabeth Cheptoo, says poor nutrition during the mother’s pregnancy or the child’s two years, can slow down a child’s mental and physical development for life.

She applauded the NICHE programme and said that cash transfer funds and training to the households, will assist to address issues of diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases.

Gladys Chepeitui, a beneficiary of the NICHE programme from West Pokot Sub-County, told the press how she was unable to buy food for her family and faced the challenge of malnutrition too, but since registering with the NICHE programme and through the nutrition counselling, she can now cook nutrient-rich foods for her family and meet her family needs unlike before.

NICHE is an innovative programme that combines social protection, nutrition, and child protection programming to ensure multi-sectoral and integrated service delivery in the five (5) counties of Kitui, Kilifi, Marsabit, Turkana and West Pokot.

NICHE  is a component of the Kenya Social Economic Inclusion  Programme (KSEIP) that relates to investing in the scale-up of the existing nutrition-sensitive safety nets and testing customized economic inclusion models as a component to the regular cash transfer that improves human capital and self-sufficient of  the poor and vulnerable households.

By Anthony Melly

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