When you take your baby to the clinic for the recommended monthly weight monitoring, do you keenly study your baby’s results on the progress chart?
Do you ask the nurse questions? Do you ask if your baby is growing well? If he has gained any weight since the last visit? If his weight is within the acceptable range? Do you take note of his height growth and ask whether it is within the recommended range?
Does the nurse ask you questions? Does she ask if your baby is feeding well? Does she ask about the foods yo’re giving baby? Do you ask about what foods are best for your baby? Do you have such kinds of dialogue with the nurse at the well-baby clinic?
Well, you better.
Because nutrition is one of the greatest health determinants for your baby. It could be the difference between his healthy growth, or his poor development. A baby who does not feed well will experience deprived health, stunted development and in some cases, death.
– We lose 19,000 children every year because they are underweight
– We lose 10,000 children every year because these children lack the protection of Vitamin A.
– We lose 11,000 children every year, deaths that could possibly have been averted if the children were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives.
– 35 per cent of children in Kenya are undernourished.
– There is an alarming growing prevalence of an overweight and obese population in the country. This is evidenced by the emergence of diet-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancers –some of them being directly related to poor nutrition.
The effects of malnutrition are dire. A malnourished child has a reduced IQ because of impaired mental abilities and poor intellectual development. A child with a low IQ will enroll late in school compared to his peers, and even when he does so, he will perform poorly in his studies and achieve low grades. Because of the struggle that education for such children is, many end up dropping out of primary school, meaning decreased good job opportunities. A country that has high levels of malnutrition means high levels of poverty caused by a significant unproductive population.
But Kenya is not alone. The problem of malnutrition is spread across the world, with many countries struggling with it the issue. All this information is best captured in the Global Nutrition Report 2014 which offers nutrition statistics for all countries. The report highlights the progress that has been made in some countries in combating malnutrition, identifies nutrition gaps and offers proposals on how these gaps can be filled. The report helps to guide action and spark increased commitment towards combating malnutrition.
Back home, on Friday 29 May 2015, nutrition networks from across East Africa met in Tanzania to officially launch the report. This forum presented an opportunity for the over 40 participants to take stock and strategize on how the region’s nutrition status can be improved. The interesting this is that the six EA countries –Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia all have almost similar nutrition profiles. Actually, one in every two children in East Africa is malnourished. That is not good.
So it is good to know that there are organizations that are ardently working towards addressing the malnutrition problem faced by many households in not only Kenya, but East Africa. It will be interesting to take note of how, from the Tanzania meeting, the region plans to overcome the malnutrition problem faced in most countries. It will be interesting to note the resolutions passed, the entities that have pledged to tackling the malnutrition problem, and how they can be held accountable to their commitments.
But while that is going on at the regional and country level, you too have a role to play in ensuring that the country’s malnutrition levels do not slide further down. It is your responsibility to ensure that your child is eating the right foods. A basic balanced diet is all that there is to it. And a balanced meal is not a preserve of the wealthy. Nature has ensured that foods from all food groups are accessible to all people, regardless of income status.