George Kebaso @Morarak
The future of more than a million stunted Kenyan children is at stake as the latest health indicators point to a rising population of under-five-year-olds suffering high malnutrition rates.
Health experts have warned that this will mean that if the government does not act quickly to avert this crisis, the country will have a huge population of useless adults – incapable of doing anything meaningful for themselves – in the coming years.
It is estimated that 26 percent of 6 million children are currently stunted, meaning further that about 1.5 million of them will not achieve their full potential.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary, Dr Mercy Mwangangi yesterday said that this number is increasing even as the budget meant for nutrition improvement is constantly going down.
“Two years ago as we negotiated and lobbied for resources for the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), part of the area where we kept removing resources was in nutrition, and that kitty has not been replenished yet,” Dr Mwangangi said as it also emerged that Kenya is losing averagely, 50 women everyday to pregnancy-related complications.
She noted that in the last two years the food security kitty lost close to Sh1 billion further affecting the status of nutrition for children.
“So as we sourced for funds, trying to get that basket of resources for insurance; essential medicines and commodities, we kept on eating into the budget for nutrition.
At first, Sh500m was slashed off, and then we saw another Sh200m chopped off, and recently that kitty lost about Sh100m,” Mwangangi said during the launch of the Kenya Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Adolescent Health & Nutrition (RMNCAH-N) multi-stakeholder country platform in Nairobi.
Between 2003 and 2015 Kenya almost halved its infant mortality rate (to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births) and under-five mortality rate (52 deaths per 1,000 live births).
Kenya has pledged to reduce mortality to 20 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births by 2035 by reducing the leading preventable causes of child mortality, including under-nutrition, a promise that was renewed in 2017.
However, experts who presented their views at the event yesterday noted that the rate of reduction in neonatal mortality is not satisfactory and the maternal mortality ratio remains unacceptably high.