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Promoting child’s health through the routine use of local health centres

© UNICEF Kenya/2007/ Mwabe
Women and children queue up outside Mathare Health Centre during 'Malezi Bora Week', which promotes routine, integrated health care in Kenya.

By Julie Mwabe        
NAIROBI, Kenya, 18 January 2008 – A comprehensive initiative to protect children’s health has been implemented in Kenya. Since last June, the ‘Malezi Bora’ programme, which means ‘Good Nurturing’ in Kiswahili, began making health services more accessible for expectant mothers and children under five.

Malezi Bora Week, which is supported by Kenya’s Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other partners, is a shift from past programmes where health interventions such as immunization were delivered mainly through outreach campaigns. Instead, mothers are being encouraged to routinely bring their children to their local health facilities.

“I never knew that I could come to the clinic and receive all these services on the same day,” said the mother of a six month old girl. “My daughter was immunized today, given a Vitamin A dose and I was also given family planning advice.”

© UNICEF Kenya/2007/ Mwabe
Members of the 'Home Boyz' roadshow entertain a crowd in the Kapsabet District of Kenya to promote the the message of 'Malezi Bora'.

Educational outreach

Parents and communities are urged to take advantage of the multiple services available at their health centres through radio broadcasts, newspaper articles, informative posters and a series of entertaining performances. Last year, two Malezi Bora Weeks took place in Kenya – one in June and one in November.

“Malezi Bora is about nurturing the health of children and women, to build a prosperous nation,” said UNICEF Kenya’s Project Officer for Nutrition Noreen Prendiville. “When children are debilitated by disease and poor nutrition, they cannot grow healthily, they cannot do well at school and they cannot reach their full potential.”

A powerful and entertaining message

To help mobilize communities and engage them on the importance of child survival, a performing group known as the ‘Home Boyz’ performed road shows in different parts of the country. The group distributed pamphlets and posters and entertained the crowds with powerful, humorous skits promoting the use of routine health services.

The District Nutrition Officer in Kwale reported that an 80 per cent increase in the use of Vitamin A and de-worming tablets during Malezi Bora Weeks, and noted that many children were receiving health services for the very first time.

“By investing in the good health of our children, we are investing in our future. Behind every healthy child there is a healthy mother,” said Kenya’s Minister for Health, Paul Sang.



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