Proper nutrition is every child’s right: well-nourished children are generally healthier, more active, learn better in school and have a greater chance of fulfilling their potential. In Kenya, the issues affecting the nutrition sector include - consistently high malnutrition rates among children; almost no exclusive breast-feeding, poor complementary feeding and lack of knowledge on overall child care practices; high levels of micronutrient malnutrition that impede proper growth and development; lack of a policy and implementing framework for nutrition interventions in the country; weak capacity in-country to manage nutritional aspects of emergencies and vast need for developing and scaling up a coordinated and technically sound nutrition and care package for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Nutrition programme contributes to the UNDAF outcome 1: Increased access to and use of basic social services with particular attention to marginalized and vulnerable populations; UNDAF outcome 2: Enhanced capacities of key national and local institutions for improved governance; UNDAF outcome 3: Reduce further spread of HIV/AIDS and improve the quality of life of those affected by HIV/AIDS; and UNDAF outcome 6,7 & 8: Enhanced institutional and technical capacity for disaster management (preparedness and response) policy formulation and implementation. It directly relates to the MDG goal 1, 4, 5 and 6.
The programme focuses its efforts at two levels, national and district. At national level, support is provided to the development of the National Food and Nutrition Policy and even more importantly, the translation of the policy into a national strategy. A communication strategy for nutrition will be developed, aiming to have basic information on nutrition available to households throughout the country, thus enabling more informed decision making on key issues at that level. The programme also addresses the current inadequacy of technical guidelines, policy documents and monitoring structures in such key areas as HIV/AIDS, micronutrients and the management of malnutrition.
At district level, the programme supports a comprehensive and inter-sectoral approach to addressing nutrition and malnutrition. The programme prioritizes the populations in the eleven arid and semi arid districts of north and north eastern Kenya and slums of Nairobi to ensure increased access to essential nutrition related support. This involves support to and dialogue with a broad range of stakeholders to address some of the issues that currently increase the nutrition related vulnerability of populations in arid areas.
The programme increases the engagement with partners in agriculture and education sectors and aims to strengthen collaboration and integration where nutrition interventions can be delivered through the health sector. A number of key strategies are being used and these are proven to have an influence on malnutrition. These include a focus on promotion of optimal practices related to infant and young child feeding, supplementation and fortification with specific micronutrients and appropriate nutritional management of individuals with specific needs including those already malnourished and those affected by HIV and AIDS.
Of critical importance to logical and strategic decision making is a functional nutrition information system. Work is being done in developing a nutrition information system that will support long term monitoring and evaluation and also ensure that adequate information is available in food insecure populations to facilitate timely interventions during periods of crisis.
The programme also focuses on training. Mentoring and supportive supervision is used to develop skills and to provide opportunities for exchange of experiences. A greater focus on training for trainers in specific focus areas such as management of malnutrition ensures a broader reach and greater sustainability.
The programme has been increasing its engagement with the private sector and research institutions to support the ongoing development of nutrient dense products. Issues related to special nutritional needs of specific groups, scientific analysis, quality control and certification are being addressed.
In the nine arid districts of Kenya, specific nutrition interventions are required to reduce morbidity and mortality related to the chronically high levels of acute malnutrition. The programme aims at addressing the short-term needs with a longer term perspective, building preparedness capacity in crisis prone districts.