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Kenya, 14 June 2016: First Lady launches the 2016 Global Nutrition Report in Nairobi

© UNICEF Kenya/2016/Oloo
The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta (centre), with key guests at the launch of the Global Nutrition Report at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.

 
By Daniel Oloo

Nairobi, KENYA, 14 June 2016 – Malnutrition continues to affect 1 out of every 3 people globally, and every year reduces Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 11 per cent across Africa. In countries like Kenya, the burden of poor nutrition manifests itself in form of wasting, stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions.

But according to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report (GNR), Kenya is one of the few countries in the world that is on target to achieve World Health Assembly targets of eliminating all forms of malnutrition by 2025.

The report ranks Kenya at position 11 out of 44 countries in its efforts to address stunting in children, a mark of improvement in curbing this silent emergency that arises due to chronic nutritional deficiency in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. These findings confirm those of the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) which show a reduction in stunting rates from 35 per cent in 2008-2009 to 26 per cent in 2014 with 8 per remaining severely stunted.

At a ceremony presided over by the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, the 2016 GNR was launched in Nairobi where representatives from Government, the Kenya National Assembly, Civil Society, the International Community and other stakeholders joined the health fraternity in renewing their commitment to avert malnutrition. Prior to the launch, Mrs. Kenyatta had endorsed the report as a statement of Kenya’s commitment towards working with all stakeholders to improve nutrition indicators.

As she launched the report, the Kenyan First Lady acknowledged the strain malnutrition has had on the nation’s economy saying, “The burden of malnutrition not only robs our children from experiencing their full potential, but it also affects families, communities and societies.”

© UNICEF

 
Mrs. Kenyatta, who is also the National Nutrition Patron, singled out exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life as a critical component in addressing the problem.

She said, “We already know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding in both rich and poor households. Research has also established that it has a positive effect on the brain development and IQ as well as reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes in adult life, yet we are lagging behind in implementing health and social mechanisms that scale up breastfeeding programmes.”

She called for more investment to overcome barriers to breastfeeding. This is particularly relevant as Kenya’s parliament has recently approved a bill that will make it mandatory for companies to set aside special breastfeeding areas for nursing mothers in the workplace alongside the 14 weeks of paid maternity leave highlighting the progress in the enabling environment.

Kenya was one of only six other countries to hold simultaneous launches of the global report alongside the United States, India, China, Sweden and South Africa. The 2016 document titled: ‘ From Promise to Impact - Ending Malnutrition by 2030’, presents reflections, progress and open commitments made by individual countries across the globe in meeting their nutrition targets.

© UNICEF Kenya/2016/Oloo
The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, launches the 2016 Global Nutrition alongside the Cabinet Secretary of Health Dr. Cleopa Mailu at a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya.

At the Nairobi event, the Cabinet Secretary of Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu drew hope from the Global Nutrition Report as it singled out Kenya as being one of the few countries that are on course to meet their nutrition targets. He assured stakeholders that he would enhance nutrition as a core priority in the ministry so as to prevent and manage other diseases.

While he highlighted gains made by Kenya in improving nutrition indicators, Dr. Mailu added that, “Addressing nutrition problems requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders including prioritization from the community to the National level. What we need now is to scale up nutrition-specific interventions in all regions of Kenya which will require USD76 million in public investment annually to achieve the expected gains.”

He further expressed optimism that mechanisms already in place will enable Kenya realize global and national targets with reference to the Kenya Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) that recognizes the need for a multi-sectorial approach.

“I remain committed to ensuring that nutrition issues are given priority at the highest Government level including strengthening inter-ministerial taskforces even as we work towards realizing the Food and Nutrition Security Bill 2014,” he added.

The gains made in tackling malnutrition have been possible partly due to Kenya joining the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in 2012 where UNICEF has played a leadership role. Speaking on behalf of the SUN network, Dr. Pirkko Heinonen, the outgoing UNICEF Kenya Representative, a.i., reaffirmed the movement’s continued support in ensuring integration, planning, budgeting and delivery of quality nutrition services for Kenyans.

“The SUN Network stands with the Government of Kenya and all other stakeholders to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030,” she said. Ms. Heinonen further stressed the urgent need to address major inequalities in Kenya as a key development goal. “Good nutrition signals the realization of people’s rights to food and health as articulated in the Kenya Constitution. It reflects a narrowing of the inequalities in Kenya and is the ultimate outcome of development.”

Despite the successes achieved, there is still insufficient financial commitment and investment for nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive programmes. Undernutrition and over nutrition remain a major burden and if left unchecked Kenya’s ability to achieve Vision 2030 will be seriously undermined. UNICEF continues to work with the Kenya Government to enable all women and children get equitable access to high-impact quality nutrition interventions especially among high burden counties and vulnerable urban populations.

With support from the EU, UKAID, USAID, CERF, Japan and the German Natcom, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health with a 50million USD multiyear Maternal and Children Nutrition Programme targeting the most deprived children in the arid and semi-arid land counties, refugee populations and urban informal settlements. The programme focuses on three overarching result areas of community resilience, health systems strengthening and advocacy planning and budgeting.

The Global Nutrition Report is a comprehensive summary and scorecard assessing progress on all forms of nutrition in 193 countries. This year’s report is themed, ‘Making and Measuring Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) commitments to nutrition and identifying what it will take to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

 

 
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