Launch of European Union Project on Maternal and Child Nutrition in West Pokot County

The European Union (EU) has officially commissioned a Ksh 90.8 million (800,000 Euros) project in West Pokot County that will benefit more than 135,000 people. The ‘Advocacy, System Strengthening and Capacity Enhancement for Nutrition Transformation’ (ASCENT) project covers November 2015 and May 2018.

West Pokot County has the worst cases of chronic malnutrition in Kenya (45.9%) according to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, with about 50,000 children under age of five years being stunted (too short for their age. The five year County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) covering 2014-2018 estimates that Ksh1.3 billion is required for nutrition programmes.

West Pokot County Governor, H. E. Simon Kachapin unveiled the project at ELCK Kapenguria Bible Centre on 17th March 2016. The Governor hailed the efforts made by development partners to support the county to tackle malnutrition at various levels, including capacity building of health facilities and pledged to increase the nutrition budget. “In this financial year the county government recruited additional 17 nutritionists and 123 health workers from different health cadres,” the Governor announced.

In total, West Pokot County now has 21 nutritionists which translates to 1 nutritionist per 27,000 people as compared to last year when there was 1 nutritionist per 82,000 people.

The Head of Social Affairs and Environmental at EU Delegation in Kenya Dr Hjordis D'Agostino Ogendo, said the ASCENT project is one of the seven grants on nutrition amounting to Ksh612.9 million (5.4 million Euros) recently awarded by EU to various NGOs in the country. In addition, the EU is supporting 18 projects in maternal and child health including nutrition worth Ksh1.7 billion (15.4 million Euros); and a project on nutrition implemented by UNICEF in nine arid and semi-arid counties worth Ksh2.2 billion (19 million Euros). “The EU expects that all these projects will have a significant impact in the lives of the target communities and especially women of reproductive age and children under the age of five,” Dr Ogendo remarked.

Speaking during the launch of the project, the Ministry of Health’s Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Unit Gladys Mugambi noted the progress made by the country in tackling malnutrition, citing the Global Nutrition Report 2015 which recognises Kenya as the only country on course to meet all the World Health Assembly global nutrition targets.

The Head of Nutrition appealed for a multi-stakeholder approach in nutrition interventions from the national to county levels, noting that all ministries and sectors should prioritise nutrition as a development agenda. She commended West Pokot County government for recruiting more nutritionists, and urged all county governments to invest more resources in nutrition programmes.

The ASCENT project funded by EU will be implemented by a consortium that brings together non-governmental organisations, namely Action Against Hunger (ACF), Pokot Youth Bunge County Forum and SIKOM Peace Network for Development. Its main goal is to contribute to reduction of morbidity and mortality related to undernutrition. The high quality nutrition interventions under the project will focus on Maternal and Child Nutrition (MCN) interventions, and will tackle undernutrition in West Pokot County, which leads in improved nutritional status of women and children under 5 years old.

The project targets 135,318 beneficiaries, 45,606 boys and 41,762 girls under 5 years, among them 50 county political and technical leaders, 170 health facility staff, 140 community health volunteers, 27,590 pregnant and lactating women and 20,000 youth aged between 15 and 24 years). The proposed interventions will enhance nutrition capacity of local partners as a means of enhancing ownership, enhance scaling up of nutrition actions and expertise through capacity strengthening of partners and health care staff to provide quality interventions, pursue evidence-based advocacy and engagement at the community and county levels aiming to enhance mobilisation and political commitment for nutrition as well as investment in research to strengthen the knowledge-base for nutrition.