Esther Kariuki.

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Earlier this month, I was honoured to represent MI in London as a nutrition champion during an advocacy tour organized by support Results UK.

The tour aimed to raise awareness among decision-makers and the public about the urgent need to scale up nutrition interventions, particularly micronutrient interventions to improve the health and development of women and children, and to build momentum on nutrition issues in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)― and in the run up to the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit in Rio in 2016.

The four-day tour was extremely busy and exciting all at the same time, as I got to meet with UK parliamentarians, civil society – including the International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition (ICAN) – and a massive group of dedicated Results UK grassroots advocates and future nutrition leaders.

E-P-I-C will forever be ingrained in my mind: E-Engage; P-Problem; I-Inform and C-Call to Action – a handy advocacy tool, courtesy of my amazing Results UK partner.  

As the senior program officer for MI Kenya’s maternal, newborn and child health, I wanted to focus my messages on MI Kenya’s collaborative efforts to improve the health of women and children through nutrition.

I also wanted people to understand how MI-Kenya supports the Government of Kenya to ensure nutrition action is effective and reaches those who need it the most. In the recently released 2015 Global Nutrition Report, Kenya was identified as the only country  on track to reach five nutrition targets. I wanted to make that connection – to show that MI is helping to make a difference.

UK Parliamentarians
We had EPIC conversations with parliamentarians, informing them about the magnitude of malnutrition in Kenya, sharing the global solutions MI implements locally and the successes we experience amidst the many challenges.

Overall, we came away with commitments to engage Parliament on the need for high level participation at the Rio Summit and the call for additional resources for nutrition by the UK Government.

Report on Nutrition Success
I had the honour of representing Gladys Mugambi, Head of Nutrition for Kenya’s Ministry of Health, at the launch of What Works for Nutrition? Stories of Success from Vietnam, Uganda and Kenya.

The report, a partnership between Results UK, Concern Worldwide and the University of Westminster, highlighted 11 key drivers and recommendations for improved nutrition, including financial tracking for nutrition across all sectors. In addition, the report highlighted the key role played by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the Zero Hunger Challenge – and other such global platforms – to strengthen nutrition commitments, increase demand for integrated planning, and implement nutrition sensitive and specific interventions.

The need to innovate
Discussing Kenya’s nutrition dynamics with Abigail Perry, the UK’s Department for International Development nutrition team leader, proved to be of special interest as I learned more about the complexities involved in donor funding decisions, especially the potential implications for Kenya following the new Low Middle Income Country (LMIC) status. The need for innovative funding mechanisms and the push for increased domestic resource allocation became even more relevant to me.

The perfect ending to an exhilarating nutrition week 
In the end, I spoke my heart out to an audience of nutrition and public health students, on the role MI-Kenya plays in scaling up micronutrient-linked programs. It was a dynamic conversation and a pleasure to respond to questions posed on practical programming issues.

It was really an honour for me to be part of this advocacy process and share my knowledge about nutrition in Kenya as well as MI’s efforts.

I was energized to meet so many people interested in what my country is doing to improve the health and well-being of its most vulnerable populations. I was amazed by the desire to make a difference, despite the many challenges we are faced with in our growing global community.

My time as an MI nutrition advocate reminded me we all have a significant role to play in advocating for the right of nutrition for all!