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Govt, donors unite to fight child maternal malnutrition

18 February 2015, 08:22

Nairobi - The government has teamed up with EU and the UN agencies to launch a four-year programme to help prevent child and maternal malnutrition in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

A statement from the Ministry of Health said the initiative which will be launched during a National Nutrition Symposium in Nairobi on Wednesday seeks to help an estimated 2.8 million or one third of Kenyan children under the age of five who are stunted.

"Malnutrition is a public health concern in Kenya; it has cost the lives of our children and undermined the healthy physical and cognitive development of thousands of others," Minister of Health James Macharia said ahead of the meeting.

"Despite Kenya's economic growth over the past 20 years, we have been unable to reduce our high rates of malnutrition," Macharia added.

The meeting will bring together members of the SUN Business Network, the Civil Society Alliance, the Donor Network, UN Network agencies and development partners supporting the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in Kenya, including the EU delegation in Kenya and many members of civil society.

"This multi-sectoral programme marks a significant shift in Kenya's approach to tackling malnutrition in the country," First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.

"The government welcomes the fact that our partners have made a commitment to work together to help build the resilience of Kenya's most vulnerable communities," she said.

Also read: Controlling food related illnesses will intensify malnutrition, poverty

The statement said a focus of the programme is to reduce the impact of the recurrent food shortages and crises that have undermined the health and development of communities in Kenya's semi-arid and arid lands, using a multi-sectoral approach that focuses on prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

EU Chargé d'Affaires Marjaana Sall said "the European bloc is committed to this programme as development is one of our central goals."

"As well as having a detrimental impact on the economy, malnutrition hinders efforts to reduce poverty. In addition, recurrent and prolonged droughts have exposed Kenya's arid and semi-arid counties to repeated food and nutrition crises," Sall said.

The target population is women and children under the age of five in the nine counties of Kilifi, Kitui, Kwale, Mandera, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot.

The aim is for partners and civil society to work together to strengthen health systems in these areas and to empower communities to cope better with the impact of drought and other crises. This involves adopting healthier practices, such as hospital births, exclusive breastfeeding, diversified and age appropriate infant feeding practices and better hygiene.

UNICEF Acting Representative Pirkko Heinonen said access to nutrition is a child's right and it is a right that is "in our power to meet".

"Malnutrition in children is particularly damaging since the effects are irreversible, resulting in permanent physical and cognitive impairment. This has an impact on the individual's quality of life and productivity, as well as on the national economy," she said.

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- Xinhua


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