Alarm as stunted growth plagues Northern Kenya
It is more than five years since prevalent stunted growths among children in Northern Kenya were reported, yet there is still no end in sight for children and families suffering devastating impacts on their health and well-being.
While speaking to the nation.africa at Qalaliwe village during her visit to Moyale sub-county on Saturday, the World Food Programme Representative and Country Director Lauren Landis, expressed fear of long term impacts of prevalent stunted growths among children in the region.
“With the continued malnutrition and stunted growth reported in Marsabit if no timely interventions are set up we might end up with a non-productive population that can’t get deployed even in the disciplined forces in future,” Ms Landis said.
She observed that while the number of stunted children worldwide has fallen from 255 million to 156 million over the past 25 years, Northern Kenya and Marsabit County included have continued to have an upward trend of malnutrition and stunted growths.
Ms Landis said that the stunting rates in the region were worrying since they were likely to result in detrimental impacts on a child’s development, and high levels over sustained periods could also negatively impact the region’s economic outlook or productivity, which is already compromised.
Stunting, or low height for age, is an indicator of chronic undernutrition.
Stunting is caused by inadequate intake of nutritious food, frequent illnesses such as diarrhoea and intestinal worms, poor care practices, and lack of access to health and other essential services, especially in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
In addition, a mother’s own health and nutrition have an impact on the baby’s nutrition.
Kenya Defence Forces recruitment
Food insecurity among households living in poverty, especially in emergency-prone arid and semi-arid areas thus contributing to a high prevalence of severe acute malnutrition and higher risk of death and stunting in children.
Ms Landis called for diversified food production and behavioural change among the residents.
The World Food Programme has been supporting the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the improvement of health and survival of children under five, pregnant and lactating women through the support of health and nutrition systems to scale up high impact nutrition interventions.
They also focus on supporting improved food and nutrition security and enhanced resilience to drought and food security through farming projects.
Her concerns were echoed by Marsabit County Nutrition Coordinator Immaculate Mutua, who pointed out that malnutrition was divided into two categories: chronic and acute.
She called on the governments and development partners to give priority to regions with malnutrition problems such as Marsabit by ensuring food security and access to healthcare by mothers before, during pregnancy and while lactating.
Additionally, she called for intensified therapeutic interventions such as optimal complementary feeding through the supply of folic acid and vitamin A.
“Malnutrition is categorised in two categories: chronic and acute and if not dealt with in time can result in several types of morbidities, deformation and even deaths,” Ms Mutua said.
The impacts of malnutrition were made evident during the Kenya Defence Forces recruitment in Marsabit County on February 12, 2021, where majority of youths were turned down since they did not meet the recruitment obligatory requirements of 65kg weight and height of 5.8 feet.
The Recruitment Officer Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Maluki observed that the majority of the youths were underweight or shorter than 5.8 feet.
The prevalence of acute malnutrition expressed by the global acute malnutrition (GAM) shows a trend far above the critical level of 15 percent in Marsabit County in most years, particularly during the dry spells.