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On November 19th, Vihiga County launched its County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP) in the presence of County Governor Dr. Wilber Ottichilo, Head of Legal Affairs at Kenya’s Council of Governors Rosemary Njaramba, Nutrition International President and CEO Joel Spicer, Nutrition International Africa Regional Director Dr. Richard Pendame and Nutrition International Kenya Country Director Martha Nyagaya.

Vihiga County has a stunting rate of 23.5%, which is categorized as high according to WHO and UNICEF’s thresholds. A total of 2.6% of children under five are wasted and 4% are obese (Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014). The CNAP aims to reduce the prevalence of stunting among children under five by 40%, childhood wasting to less than 5%, childhood underweight to less than 10% and increase dietary diversity by 90%.

Malnutrition accounts for more than half of deaths among children under five. Malnourished children, particularly those with severe acute malnutrition, have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. Non-breastfed infants and children have a seven-fold and five-fold greater risk of death from diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory tract infections, respectively. More than half of under-five deaths are due to diseases that are preventable and treatable through simple, affordable interventions. Strengthening health systems to provide such interventions to all children will save many young lives.

“As a county, we have given nutrition priority in the health sector,” remarked Dr. Ottichilo during a meeting with Mr. Spicer. The governor further noted that the county was entrenching nutrition issues beyond the political cycle by enshrining it in the county’s legal framework. This is expected to ensure adequate allocation of resources to nutrition programs. “We have recruited more nutritionists in our health facilities.” The governor thanked Nutrition International for supporting 16 counties to develop CNAPs and urged the organization to embrace other counties for the benefit of nutrition programs countrywide.

Ms. Nyagaya termed the launch of Vihiga CNAP as a key milestone in addressing the problem of malnutrition in the county−and nationally.

In his remarks, Mr. Spicer lauded the momentum to scale up nutrition in Kenya. Nutrition International’s support of the development of the KNAP and CNAPs confirms the organization’s commitment to invest in counties. “We are excited that counties are willing to increase resources to nutrition. And we are excited to see multi-sectoral approaches to scale up nutrition in Vihiga County,” he said.

Testimonials by members of the Baba Anzilisha (father-to-father support) Group, a Nutrition International initiative to redefine gender roles in the fight against malnutrition, received praise from the county leaders. The Governor saluted the group. “We can see men willing to be with their spouses during pregnancy, delivery and care of babies. Men who are members of Anzilisha Group are our role models,” he said.

The CNAP includes 10 key result areas, focused around three themes: nutrition-specific interventions, nutrition-sensitive interventions and enabling environment. The total cost of implementing Vihiga CNAP for the five years is estimated at Ksh1.6 billion.

Through its Right Start (Anzilisha) initiative, Nutrition International has invested KES 7,392,000.00 (March 2019 – March 2020) in Vihiga County with the aim of creating an enabling environment and improving provision and consumption of key maternal child health and nutrition services.