Preventing and treating maternal, adolescent and child malnutrition
In Kenya, more than a quarter of children under the age of five, or two million children, have stunted growth. Stunting is the most frequent form of under-nutrition among young children. If not addressed, it has devastating long-term effects, including diminished mental and physical development. In addition, 11 per cent of children are underweight, with four per cent wasted. Wasting and severe wasting are linked to increased and preventable deaths among young children.
There are important variations in the distribution of child under-nutrition across counties in Kenya. Stunting is as high as 46 per cent in Kitui and West Pokot counties. Wasting ranges from one per cent in some areas of Kenya, to over 20 per cent in many arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) counties. Key drivers of childhood under-nutrition include disease and poor diets, especially between six and 23 months. This is due to food insecurity, insufficient care practices and harmful social norms.
UNICEF is engaging with the Government of Kenya to support its ‘Big Four Agenda’ across different sectors, including to enhance food and nutrition security and ensure universal health coverage for all.
We implement nutrition strategies and services in communities to improve the diet and feeding practices of mothers, infants and young children. This includes during the crucial first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which lay the foundation for healthy growth and development; and during adolescence, which offers an opportunity for children to catch up in terms of growth, and to address nutritional deficiencies from earlier years.
For example, in 2020, UNICEF counselled 1.6 million caregivers on best practices for feeding infants and young children. We also provided iron and folic acid to over 2.9 million women of reproductive age.
UNICEF is supporting nutrition interventions for COVID-19 patients, maternal, infant and young child nutrition and the treatment of severe acute malnutrition. We are procuring and distributing therapeutic food and micronutrients supplements. We are also training health and nutrition workers and community volunteers, and developing messages and materials to support behaviour change for improved nutrition.
Nutrition in numbers
Nationwide, 26% of children under the age of five are stunted. This rises to 46% in Kitui and West Pokot.
11% of children in Kenya are underweight, with 4% wasted.
In 2020, 4.5 million children (82%) aged 6 to 59 months received two doses of vitamin A supplement.
UNICEF provided iron and folic acid to over 2.9 million women of reproductive age in 2020.