By Abdi Hussein
Kajiado County ministry of health has raised concerns over the high number of malnourished children in the county which adversely affects early child development.
According to a report of a survey conducted recently, it was established that malnutrition linked to stunted growth malnutrition among children in Kajiado County stands at 25 percent, while one in every four children under the age of five is stunted (short for their age) .Wasted (thin for weight) malnutrition stands at 10 percent with underage children standing at 22 percent.
The county department of nutrition says the most affected children are in the far flung rural areas where a balanced diet remains a pipedream and heavy workload among women remains a challenge.
County nutrition officer Ruth Nasikoi said high illiteracy levels, far flung health centres and ignorance has contributed to the high number of children who fail to attain full development amid high cases of malnutrition.
“Most Maasai mothers are illiterate and poor to avoid a balanced diet for their children. Hospital facilities are few and far apart for them to seek nutrition advice,” explained Nasikoi.
She said the affected child development has partly contributed to low academic performance in schools.
“Most of the children suffering different forms of malnutrition record minimal performance in school.They also have troubled adulthood,” noted Nasikoi.
As a measure to help contain the worrying situation, the county government in collaboration with non-governmental organisations has embarked on training journalists and community health volunteers (CHVS) on the importance of sensitizing the community on well-being and rights of children.
CHVS are undergoing training on basic skills of balanced diet who in return train and influence locals to shun traditional feeding of babies which is limited to raw cow milk and goat fat, but instead embrace healthy foods.
The report also captured low intake of recommended vaccines where mothers ignore immunization of children and in the long run leading to complications among children, which affect their physical growth and mental development.
In the Maasai community, nurturing children is a sole responsibility of a woman who is in turn not empowered and subjected to heavy workload, including trekking for long distances to fetch water using donkeys. Traditional misconceptions are also a challenge when it comes to immunization of children.
For children aged five to nine years, malnutrition in caused by inadequate food intake and infections increase the risk of being prone to underweight, anemia, and illness.