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On November 22nd, Makueni County launched its County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) in the presence of County Governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana, Nutrition International President and CEO Joel Spicer, Nutrition International Africa Regional Director Dr. Richard Pendame and Nutrition International Kenya Country Director Martha Nyagaya. Kenya’s Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Division, Veronica Kirogo, was also among the speakers.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, the prevalence of stunting, wasting and underweight in Makueni County was 25.1%, 2.1% and 10.2% respectively. The Makueni CNAP targets the reduction of the prevalence of stunting among children under five years by 40%, childhood wasting to less than 5%, childhood underweight to less than 10%, and reduce malnutrition among older children and adolescent by 15%.

The County Chief Officer for Health Services, Dr. Patrick Kibwana, noted that to ensure effective and sustainable nutrition outcomes and health-related outcomes, the CNAP integrates gender-responsive interventions to address underlying and deep-rooted gender inequalities, socio-cultural and economic differences closely affecting improved food and nutrition security, and well-being of men and women across different ages and diversities in the county.

Chief officers from various departments highlighted how nutrition is integrated in their programs. Mr. Eliud Munyao, Chief Officer of Planning and Budget, was categorical that nutrition should not be seen as the purview of the Health Department alone. The county is steadily allocating budgets to nutrition programs in other departments in order to enable the Health Department to achieve its mandate and guarantee optimum nutrition in the county.

Governor Kibwana said the fight against malnutrition is a responsibility of all sectors. A comprehensive multi-sectoral action plan is the key to reverse malnutrition trends. He observed that the launch of the CNAP was the culmination of a strong partnership between his government, Nutrition International and other nutrition partners. He expressed confidence that the county would achieve the targets in the CNAP.

“Nutrition is the difference between fighting illness and surviving it,” remarked Ms. Nyagaya. “Malnutrition isn’t just a problem, it’s an urgent problem. We have the plan, the county leadership has the will. And where there is a will, there is a way.”

Ms. Kirogo reflected on the country’s malnutrition situation following the release of the Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) Kenya Study report. “In Kenya, we are condemning about 2 million stunted children to a future where they will not achieve their full potential. This is a red card that we need to act now!” she said.

Testimonials from community health volunteers (CHVs) addressed negative cultural practices that affect the involvement of men in maternal and childcare issues. Through training, Nutrition International has equipped CHVs in Makueni with adequate knowledge and information on maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition. CHVs conduct home visits and community barazas (meetings) to share knowledge and skills to groups such as lactating mothers.

The County First Lady, Her Excellency Nazi Kivutha, said she was happy the county was integrating nutrition into gender issues. “In the African context, a woman is key to good nutrition. Nutrition is a woman issue. If women get it right, the whole family gets it right,” the First Lady stated.

“We have to ask ourselves, who are we leaving behind? The next generation of Eliud Kipchoge or doctors or businesswomen and men?” said Mr. Spicer, adding that more than one out of four stunted children in Kenya is being left behind.

Ms. Kirogo was upbeat. “We are here today to witness this commitment and we are looking forward to increased budgetary allocation to nutrition in health department and other nutrition-sensitive sector departments to enable full implementation of CNAPs.”

The CNAP includes 10 key result areas, focused around three themes: nutrition-specific interventions, nutrition-sensitive interventions and enabling environment. The County Department of Health requires an investment worth Ksh1.26 billion for nutrition over the plan’s period.

Nutrition International has invested a total of Ksh6,997,500 in Makueni County this financial year, with an aim of creating an enabling environment and improving provision and consumption of key maternal child health and nutrition services through its Right Start (Anzilisha) initiative.