The Ministry of Health has launched new measures to tackle malnutrition aiming to improve Kenyans’ health, nutrition and quality of life, boost immunity against diseases like COVID-19 and accelerate social and economic growth in the country.

This includes the implementation framework for securing a breastfeeding-friendly environment at workplaces (2020-2024) and the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan (2018-2022), both supported by UNICEF and partners. The action plan, which will now be fully implemented, is an ambitious, cross-sectoral strategy designed to tackle malnutrition in all stages of life.

“Good nutrition at every stage of life is part of the foundation of a prosperous society,” said Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary for Health. “For the first time, five Ministries and the Council of Governors are working hand in hand with a range of partners on a Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Action Plan to stamp out malnutrition in Kenya once and for all.”

According to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of children under the age of five are so malnourished that they have become stunted or too short for their age. This has both short and long-term consequences for the individual, society and economy. Rates of stunting are as high as 46 percent in some counties like Kitui and West Pokot.

The survey also shows that across the country, more than one in ten children (11 percent) are underweight, with four percent being wasted, or underweight for their height.

Evidence from the recently released Kenya Cost of Hunger Study (2019) shows that this has a huge economic cost: the country lost 6.9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product due to undernutrition in one year (2014). However, according to an investment framework for nutrition in Kenya by UNICEF, World Bank, and Ministry of Health (2016), for every Sh100 invested in nutrition, we see a Sh2,200 return.

The Kenya Nutrition Action Plan (KNAP) therefore outlines a multi-faceted approach to managing the root causes of malnutrition: from community health services, to food production, education, social protection and safe water supply.

“When we talk about a prosperous nation, we have to talk about investing in nurturing human capital. This starts with children. Only if a child is well-nourished can he or she develop and grow well, stay healthy, learn well and be able to reach his or her full potential,” said UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman. “Good nutrition also boosts immunity, giving both children and adults better protection against diseases, including COVID-19.”

Source : Capital news