By Paul Odongo
At Feed the Children, we couldn’t do our work without the support of individuals, corporations and organizations—people like you. Your gifts help us attract and hire top-notch staff who implement our programs here and around the world—who help create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
Today we’d like you to meet the Food & Nutrition Team in Kenya.
Many people mistakenly think Food & Nutrition consists simply of providing meals to hungry kids. We do work with feeding programs in communities and schools throughout Central America, Africa and the Philippines. But the food is only a fraction of what we do. Kenya’s Food & Nutrition Team also works to train and empower parents and communities through the Care Group program.
Their work starts before a child is even born, and continues through the child’s first thousand days of life. Studies have consistently shown that these few years can be the most important period in a child’s life. What happens in those early years helps ensure whether they will grow into healthy and well-nourished children.
Through the Care Group Model, we help educate entire communities on good hygiene, nutrition, sanitation and health. We employ seven Care Group Promoters, who are each responsible for four Care Groups. These groups typically consist of ten to twelve Lead Mothers, who are volunteers and the real lifeblood of what we do.
Each Lead Mother reaches out to ten to fifteen neighbor women who are pregnant, lactating, or have a child under five years of age. These Lead Mothers meet frequently in their Care Groups to learn key messages about nutrition and caregiving, which they pass on to their communities.
It’s mothers training mothers, and it works.
“We began teaching this year, and the community is already energized and taking action towards some of the issues in their communities,” says Anthony Muburi, a Care Group Promoter. This teaching includes how to access nutrient-rich foods and appropriate nutrition for infants and young children. The groups also help mothers access deworming medication for children, to prevent parasites. All activities focus on reducing stunting, which can result in permanent, irreversible negative health, developmental, and well-being outcomes for the remainder of children’s lives.
“When we started the program, there was some skepticism,” says Dennis Kaunda, a supervisor. “We had to take some time to sensitize the Ministry of Health officials on this model and how we would implement it.”
Along with the Care Groups, Food & Nutrition takes a big-picture approach, working with government to advocate for policies and budgets that encourage good nutrition and foster child development. We have been pivotal in nutrition advocacy in Kajiado County, which led to the launch of the County Nutrition Action Plan in June this year. This is one our most visible achievements, and the first of its kind in Kenya. We are helping get county government and other partners involved in the fight against hunger. The action plan will provide framework and coordination for a variety of interventions, activities and programs by county government, stakeholders and partners.
We salute the Food & Nutrition team in Kenya: Clementina Ngina, the Pillar Manager; Dennis Kaunda and Japheth Kaeke, supervisors on the ground; Anthony Muburi, Deborah Nekesa, Kevin Wanyonyi, Jackline Jerotich, Mercy Nyangaresi, Gladys Gathua and Everline Ahidi, our Care Group Promoters; and Esther Komen, a Program Officer that represents the team in Kajiado.
Will you stand with these dedicated individuals? Learn more about our work in Kenya here.