As the world celebrates World Food Day on October 16, Nyandarua County has had cases of malnutrition in the past.
According to nutritionists, children are most vulnerable to malnutrition from birth to their second birthday. The effects of early childhood malnutrition become permanent if no improvement is made during this period.
According to Phoebe Wangui, Clinical Nutritionist in-charge at County Referral Hospital, Nyahururu has recorded high cases of malnutrition.
“There are two types of malnutrition; under-nutrition which is the undertaking of food and nutrients and over-nutrition where one overfeeds leading to obesity.
“Under nutrition is categorized into two; Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Chronic Malnutrition which occurs when a child or an adult has had long term exposure to malnutrition resulting in stunted growth which affects the height and weight.
“Over nutrition can lead to one being overweight or obese. Obesity is where people have a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30 and overweight is where people have a BMI between 25 to 29. Healthy people are supposed to have a BMI range of 18 to 24.5,” said Wangui.
She added that obesity causes hypertension and diabetes and that most diabetic patients are normally overweight. Many clients start to have sugar levels and blood pressure stabilizing the moment they eventually start losing weight.
Nyahururu Hospital has a daily programme of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programme (OTP) for children that are severely malnourished and they have Supplemental Feeding Programme (SFP) which is both outpatient services for moderate malnourished children.
For inpatient level they have Inpatient Therapeutic Care for adults or children that are underweight and malnourished. According to the nutritionist, diarrhea and vomiting are prevalent at this level and in severe cases can lead to death.
She advises residents to consume a lot of locally available foods and especially vegetables but at the same time not to overlook having a balanced diet.
In addition, residents are encouraged to have little intakes of carbohydrates and ensure they supplement all their meals with green leafy vegetables which are in plenty within Nyandarua County.
She also insisted on enough intake of clean and safe drinking water before and after every meal.
Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia had in the past launched programs aimed at encouraging residents to take white meat like chicken and pork in a bid to supplement their diets.
He gave out pigs and chicken to various homes with an aim to discourage excessive consumption of carbohydrates like potatoes.
Recently, Nyandarua County Assembly had a proposal to give fortified uji to Early Childhood Development Centres in a bid to fight malnutrition.
Currently, Nyandarua County is leading in potato production in the country, commanding 33 per cent of the commodity produced nationally per year. The county produces 550,000 metric tonnes of potatoes worth about Ksh10 billion.
Milk, on the other hand, contributes a whooping Ksh12 billion into the county’s Gross domestic product.
According to a UNICEF report of 2020, in Kenya, more than a quarter of children under the age of five or two million children, have stunted growth.
Stunting is the most frequent form of under-nutrition among young children. If not addressed, it has devastating long-term effects, including diminished mental and physical development.
The phenomena of recurrent droughts and famine in Kenya and their convergence with ecological, health and economic crisis experienced last year due to Covid-19 has worsened the nutrition situation in the country.
World Food Day is celebrated annually on 16 October to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all.
By Antony Mwangi