Malnutrition has been identified as the leading cause of stunting amongst children in Nyando Sub-County of Kisumu.
A baseline survey conducted by Save the Children International revealed that 40 percent of children in the area aged below five years were stunted.
The survey conducted in November last year showed that 6 percent of children in the area had lowest wasting levels while 28 percent were underweight.
These worrying figures are attributed to poor feeding with only 65 percent of mothers in the area exclusively breastfeeding their children for six months.
Only 37 percent of the children in the area consumed a variety of foods with the majority being fed on cereals, fruits and vegetables without inclusion of legumes, meat and eggs.
Majority of the households in the area depend on casual labor as the main source of income whereas 31 percent rely on agriculture and 23 percent on trade and small businesses.
Furthermore, the majority of the children aged 0-3 years lacked birth certificates locking them out of government and donor funded programs. The survey revealed that 88 percent of caregivers had health cards but only 7 percent had birth certificates.
Kakola Ombaka location Chief Jacob Ongudi said parents and caregivers in the area were reluctant to secure the birth certificates since they felt it was not a priority.
“Birth certificates are not free and some parents feel it is not urgent until the children are due to join school when they rush to secure the documents,” he said.
His office, he said, has sensitized them on the need to process the documents calling for support from development partners to assist them apply for the certificates.
Save the Children International Program Officer Nancy Sironga said the survey was conducted to get estimates of selected indicators for the implementation of the Universal Child Benefits (UCB) program.
UCB which is funded by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) is being piloted in Kajiado Central, Mbeere North and Nyando sub-counties.
The program which was developed in collaboration with the government integrates cash transfer, nutrition and parenting interventions, she said targets to help reverse the negative figures and trends unearthed by the survey.
Through the program, a total of 8, 300 children aged below 36 months from the three sub-counties receive unconditional cash transfers of Sh800 each per month to help address their nutritional needs.
Sironga said the cash plus nutrition programming aims to improve the behaviours and the social norms to create an enabling environment to support positive maternal and infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF), health and water and sanitation (WASH) practices.
The program, she added, focuses on maternal health and nutrition during pregnancy, optimal breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life and continued breastfeeding for two years, appropriate complementary feeding, hygiene and sanitation and early and active health care seeking practices.
Broader positive parenting messaging, she added, has been incorporated to help reinforce the impact on nutrition and lead to other positive impacts on child development both cognitive and social skills.
The outcome of the pilot is expected to guide in the national rollout of the program later in the year.