Ministry of Health and EU working together to improve nutrition status

The Ministry of Health and the European Union are working together to improve the nutrition status of the population in Kenya. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (2014) showed 26 percent of Kenyan children are stunted, 11 percent are underweight and 4 percent are wasted

Naivasha, July 6, 2016: The European union together with the Ministry of Health and partners are gathering today in Naivasha for a two-day workshop to discuss how to improve the nutritional status in Kenya.

The workshop brings together representatives from the National government, First Ladies from the Counties (Kwale, Siaya, Homa Bay and West Pokot), County governments, civil society, Academia, the EU, USAID, DfID and UNICEF and FAO.

Mrs Gladys Mugambi, Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Unit in the Ministry of Health has repeatedly pointed out that the nutrition sector cannot do it alone and nutrition within the health sector alone cannot address malnutrition effectively. “Cooperation, coordination and partnerships are essential to achieve success in addressing all forms of malnutrition and the need to scaling up nutrition,” said Mrs. Mugambi, who is also the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) National Focal Point.

While acknowledging the significant progress that Kenya has made through the implementation of Vision 2030 Medium Term Plans, Mrs. Mugambi stressed that malnutrition is amongst the biggest threats to the realisation of the Vision. “One in four children suffers from chronic malnutrition which hinders socio-economic development and the potential to reduce poverty. It is therefore essential that nutrition is prioritised in the national development programs and strategies.”

Nationally, one-quarter (25%) of women aged 15-49 are overweight or obese. This condition is largely associated with non-communicable dietary diseases such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Other nutritional conditions of concern among women include micronutrient deficiency which also increases the risk of complications in pregnancy.

The Global Nutrition Report 2016 released on June 14 calls for all governments, agencies, parliaments, civil society organisations, donors and business to ensure that future nutrition commitments address all forms and combinations of malnutrition including stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, obesity, overweight, and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases.

The First Lady of Kenya H.E, Margaret Kenyatta is the Patron of nutrition as part of her Beyond Zero Campaign in reducing maternal and child death. Several County First Ladies are also nutrition champions who are playing a key role in advocating for the importance of addressing malnutrition and advocating for inclusion of budget lines for nutrition in their respective Counties.

The European Union (EU) is investing approximately EUR 24.4 million (KES 2.7 billion) in nutrition specific interventions with EUR 5.4 million (KES 605 million) supporting seven projects being carried out in Mombasa, West Pokot, Siaya (2 projects), Homa Bay (2 projects) and Migori, with a focus on maternal and child nutrition. The projects are being implemented by civil society organizations together with health authorities at county level.

“The focus of EU support to the government is on improving the nutrition and health status of women and children by engaging various actors at all levels including the national and county leadership, civil society organisations and communities which will lead to increased understanding and political commitment to nutrition at County level,” EU Head of Social and Environment Section, Dr. Hjordis Ogendo said during the two-day nutrition workshop in Naivasha.

Dr. Ogendo urged the actors to be steadfast in charting the course for better nutrition since it is related to improved food production, greater food security, diversified diets and better infant, child and maternal health. “Good nutrition contributes to stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lowers the risk of non-communicable diseases and enhances longevity and improved access to water and adequate sanitation,” Dr. Ogendo added.