Innovative cash transfer and nutrition programme launched to reduce child poverty in five counties

Vulnerable families to receive cash transfers to improve well-being of children

15 April 2021
MoU signing
NICHE Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

Nairobi, 14 April 2021 – A ground-breaking programme designed to contribute to the fight against child malnutrition and violence against children by combining cash transfers and community empowerment is being rolled out across five counties by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, National Drought Management Authority, UNICEF Kenya and county governments of Kitui, Kilifi, Marsabit, Turkana and West Pokot.

NICHE, or Nutrition Improvement for Children through Cash and Health Education, is part of the UK-funded component of the World Bank’s Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project. It targets vulnerable families who already receive cash transfers through the Government’s National Safety Net Programme and include pregnant or breastfeeding women, or children under two.

“We are aiming to improve the wellbeing of children, from conception up until their second birthday – a period which is crucial for human development.” Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection Simon Kiprono Chelugui said. “We thank our fellow Government ministries and the County Governments for the collaboration which underpins these efforts, and we are grateful for the technical assistance provided by UNICEF.”

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Ministry of Health, the National Drought Management Authority and the County Governments of Kilifi, Kitui, Marsabit, Turkana and West Pokot, where the initiative will be implemented. UNICEF is providing technical assistance to the Government for the NICHE programme, at a national and county level.

“Every child in Kenya has the right to grow up healthy and free from violence and poverty,” UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said. “Cash transfer programmes, with the added components of family and community-level education and empowerment on how to improve nutrition, health and well-being of children, are known to be impactful. UNICEF Kenya is excited to lend our technical expertise to this programme and we look forward to results at the individual child and community level.”

The programme aims to reach 23,500 families across five counties in five years to improve nutrition, protect children and reduce poverty. It will provide cash top ups, which are known to effectively alleviate poverty by allowing parents to decide what their children need most – such as food, medicine or clothes.

NICHE II will also include intensive counselling on nutrition and health via an existing network of community health volunteers, covering issues such as the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months old, maternal nutrition and vitamin supplementation. In Kilifi, the programme will focus on child protection as well, providing parenting sessions to prevent violence at home and training for parents who are fostering children. Research by the Institute of Development Studies and UNICEF shows that combining cash transfers with social programmes has a more powerful effect than implementing either alone [i].

“Children with malnutrition are often from families that face a range of economic and health problems,” said Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe. “An integrated response is key to securing positive behaviour change in the long and the short term.”

The five counties where the programme will be implemented were selected based on their high rates of deprivation and child malnutrition. Over the last ten years, Kenya has reduced the rate of stunting – where children under five are too small for their age – from 35 percent in 2008-09 to 26 percent in 2014. Wasting – where children are too thin for their height – has reduced from 7 percent to 4 percent over the same time period. Despite this promising national outlook, regional disparities persist. Stunting in the five counties currently stands at 46 percent (West Pokot and Kitui), 39 percent (Kilifi), 27 percent (Marsabit) and 24 percent (Turkana).

Child protection concerns are also pressing – with the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey demonstrating that one in two young adults in Kenya experienced violence as a child. Meanwhile the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2020 Comprehensive Poverty Report shows children across the country remain disproportionately affected by poverty.  

“During disasters caused by droughts, floods or other hazards, children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition,” National Drought Management Authority CEO James Oduor said. “This programme will provide a safety net to cushion beneficiary families , especially from health and nutrition related  negative impacts.”

A pilot for the NICHE programme was first implemented in Kitui, by the County Government, National Government, the European Union and UNICEF between March 2017 and June 2018. An impact evaluation showed it led to improvements in areas such as rates of exclusive breastfeeding, the quality of children’s and mothers’ diets, and the prevalence of childhood illnesses like diarrhoea.  

“Since COVID-19 hit Kenya, many families have lost income and children’s nutrition is suffering,” Council of Governors Chairman Martin Wambora said. “The NICHE programme will help give families reliable access to food, and bolster their nutrition knowledge, helping to keep children safe during the pandemic.”


Download the MoU and other documents here: NICHE DOCUMENTS

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