LVCT Health

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Improving children nutrition through local solutions in Kwale County

To improve the health outcomes of the children in Kwale County, LVCT Health, through the USAID Stawisha Pwani project, brought together 22 children and their primary caregivers within two villages in Samburu, Kwale County, for a 14 days Positive Deviance (PD) Hearth camp.

The children were part of 489 children who had been screened for malnutrition and found to be underweight. Among the parents selected from Mafufuni village is 25-year-old Zawadi Lalo, whose

Zawadi Lalo (left) with her daughter and peers at the PD hearth camp in Mafufuni village in Kwale county

daughter was underweight.

The mother of two was initially hesitant to join the camp as she was unsure what it entailed, but after consulting with her husband and mother-in-law, she was encouraged to join her peers.

“When we started the training, we were not sure what was expected of us, especially when we were told that we could only use food found in the village to change the health of our children. I wondered how this would work since I have been feeding my children the same food without any results,” recalls Zawadi.

The PD Hearth camps brought together parents/caregivers and their children every afternoon for cooking, learning and feeding sessions. As part of the learning, the women are encouraged to bring locally available foodstuff as advised by the county nutritionist leads and guided on how to prepare them.

During the hearth sessions, the children were fed appropriate portions based on age. As the children respond to improved nutrition by gaining appetite, energy and weight, their families experience the first-hand value of positive deviant practices.

“I am happy to meet my peers every afternoon to share ideas and prepare meals for our children. The sessions have helped me learn the importance of allowing children to play and how to make nutritious meals with locally available foods like beans, groundnuts and fish. I learnt that it was not about the quantity of food but quality,” She says.

During the first day, the children had their weight and Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) measured and recorded. This would be done again at the end of the 14 days to check on the initiative’s impact. The camps would also set up small demonstration kitchen gardens to teach caregivers how to grow vegetables. Caregivers were also trained in good hygiene practices like hand washing before preparing and feeding their children.

According to the County health official, three out of ten children show signs of stunted growth, attributed to high poverty rates and the inability to feed on a balanced diet. The camps have not only helped the mothers improve their children’s nutrition but also helped them bond and share ideas on improving their livelihoods.

Today, the 14 women from Mafufuni village in the PD Hearth camp have started a merry-go-round to buy goats and chicken to increase their income and boost their children’s health.

“I now have a garden and a simple hand washing facility for my family. My daughter was able to increase her weight, and I have seen her face starting to glow, which means the camp was effective. I will continue feeding her the correct meals and share the knowledge with other mothers in the community,” says Zawadi.

USAID Stawisha Pwani will replicate the PD Hearth camps in all the sub-counties of Kwale County to educate the communities on how to use local solutions to improve their children’s health.

Story and Photos by Alfred Itunga

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