Nutrition International launches ‘Right Start’ to provide better nutrition for women, adolescent girls and children in Kenya

Pupils at D.E.B. Primary School in Naivasha celebrated the launch of Right Start in Kenya. As part of the program, adolescent girls at this school will receive weekly iron and folic acid supplementation to reduce anaemia

Naivasha, KENYA  ̶  Nutrition International launched the ‘Right Start Initiative’ in Kenya (Anzilisha) to improve the quality of nutrition and healthcare for women, adolescent girls, newborns and young children in the country through a $CAD 9.1M  (712M Ksh) investment over five years to 2020.

Supported by the Government of Canada, the program aims to reduce anaemia, stunting, birth complications and maternal and newborn deaths, as well as the number of low birth weight newborns ― and protect pregnancies from neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

The five-year project will target 21 counties and reach 710,000 pregnant women with WHO-recommended iron and folic acid supplementation, over 665,000 newborns with a package of interventions at birth, 810,000 adolescent girls with weekly iron and folic supplementation and nutrition education, and 636,000 children under two years old with nutrition services. 986,000 women of reproductive age and adolescent girls will also be reached through the fortification of commercial maize flour with iron and folic acid at a national level.

So far, Kenya has shown exceptional leadership in the fight against malnutrition. The 2015 Global Nutrition Report reported that it was the only one of all 54 African countries on course to hit all five of the World Health Assembly nutrition targets.

“To prepare future generations to fully take advantage of their physical and cognitive potential, it is important to invest in the nutrition of women including the adolescent girls,” said Dr Warfa Osman, Head of Neonatal, Child Health and Adolescent Health, Kenya Ministry of Health. “That is why I would like to express my support and thanks to Nutrition International and the Government of Canada for the Right Start Program in Kenya, which will inevitably make a significant contribution to our country’s efforts in fighting malnutrition.”

“Kenya continues to demonstrate a high level of leadership in improving nutrition for its most vulnerable populations, and that is encouraging,” said Joel Spicer, President and CEO of Nutrition International. “However, much more action and financing are needed, particularly for women and girls. Through Right Start, we will work with governments and partners at county level so that every child, woman and adolescent girl has the nutrition they need to survive and thrive and achieve their full potential.

However, improvements are still needed in specific areas. For example, a quarter of all women, including adolescent girls, have anaemia, which can impact their physical wellbeing, their performance at work or school, and increase the possibility of complications and fetal development issues if they become pregnant. Maternal and infant and young child nutrition indicators are still sub-optimal: only about two-thirds of all newborns are exclusively breastfed, and less than a quarter of infants aged six to 23 months benefit from appropriate complimentary feeding. Over a quarter of all children under five are stunted, which can have long-term effects on their cognitive development, school achievement, economic productivity in adulthood.

The main interventions of the Right Start Program in Kenya include:

  • The provision of weekly iron and folic supplementation and nutrition education to adolescent girls to reduce anaemia through schools, private health facilities and community;
  • High impact, evidence based nutrition interventions for pregnant women and newborns;
  • The fortification of commercial maize flour with iron and folic acid throughout the country;
  • Building the capacity of frontline health workers to provide quality antenatal, delivery and postnatal care, allowing for improved survival and health of pregnant women and newborns in 21 counties; and
  • Improving the nutrition of children under two years old through a heightened focus on maternal infant and young child nutrition at the policy and community health levels, in order to scale up and extend the delivery of packages of interventions including optimal breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding, counselling and food supplementation with multiple micronutrient powders.

“Right Start aims to rally the international development community to generate the know-how, resources and solutions necessary to empower women and girls through improved nutrition,” said Luke Myers, Head of Cooperation, Canadian High Commission in Kenya. “The project we launch today is part of Canada’s global leadership on nutrition and women’s empowerment to contribute to the global capacity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“Right Start is contributing to Kenya’s RMNCAH program and presents a model for effective collaboration for addressing malnutrition among vulnerable populations including for Nutrition for Adolescents and women of reproductive age. More resources and improved accountability will be required among partners to fully meet the huge needs in Kenya,”said Christopher Wanyoike, Country Director, Nutrition International Kenya.

The launch was attended by senior government officials from national and county governments, civil society organizations.

Right Start’s main implementing partners are the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, County governments, the Kenyan Red Cross, Christian Health Association and the Center for Behavior Change Communication.

The Right Start Initiative is a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted initiative aiming to reach over 100 million women and girls with improved nutrition in nine countries across Africa and Asia.

For more information, download the Right Start Kenya fact sheet (PDF) or infographic (PDF) or read Nutrition International’s President and CEO Joel Spicer’s address.