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Kenya only country in the world set to meet five health targets

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A mother nurses her baby. PHOTO | FILE

A mother nurses her baby. The five targets are stunting, wasting, overweight among children under five, exclusive breastfeeding of infants up to six months, and anaemia in women of reproductive age. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI

Posted  Monday, September 28   2015 at  10:20

In Summary

  • The five targets are stunting, wasting, overweight among children under five, exclusive breastfeeding of infants up to six months, and anaemia in women of reproductive age.
  • According to the report childhood stunting and wasting remain serious problems in East Africa. More than 160 million children under five years old worldwide are too short for their age (stunted), while more than 50 million don’t weigh enough for their height (wasted).
  • On exclusive breastfeeding of children up to the age of six months, Rwanda ranks highest with 87.3 per cent of newborn babies being breastfed exclusively for six months while Tanzania has the least at 41.1 per cent. Burundi, Uganda and Kenya follow at 69.3 per cent, 63.3 per cent and 61.4 per cent respectively.

Kenya is the only country in the world that is on course to meet all five World Health Assembly (WHA) maternal and child nutrition health targets, according to the 2015 Global Nutrition report.

Kenya’s progress has been attributed to government commitment and investment to end malnutrition; women’s empowerment; improved food supply; greater access to improved healthcare, water and sanitation facilities; and improved performance of specific nutrition programmes across the country.

This new status reflects the results of the Kenyan Demographic and Health Survey from 2014 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2015, which shows that the country’s malnutrition rates have fallen tremendously in the past five years.

Uganda is likely to meet three of the five targets, while Rwanda and Tanzania will achieve only two. Burundi is likely to miss all five targets.

The five targets are stunting, wasting, overweight among children under five, exclusive breastfeeding of infants up to six months, and anaemia in women of reproductive age.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1 requires countries to have reduced by one third all of the five targets.

According to the report childhood stunting and wasting remain serious problems in East Africa. More than 160 million children under five worldwide are too short for their age (stunted), while more than 50 million don’t weigh enough for their height (wasted).

Stunting is highest in Burundi where 57.5 per cent of children in the country are too short for their age followed by Rwanda at 37 per cent, Tanzania 34.7 per cent, Uganda 34.2 per cent and Kenya 26 per cent.

On exclusive breastfeeding of children up to the age of six months, Rwanda ranks highest with 87.3 per cent of newborn babies being breastfed exclusively for six months while Tanzania has the least at 41.1 per cent. Burundi, Uganda and Kenya follow at 69.3 per cent, 63.3 per cent and 61.4 per cent respectively.

“Although countries are increasingly meeting goals for combating stunting and wasting, the prevalence of adult obesity rose in every single country between 2010 and 2014, and one in 12 adults worldwide now has type 2 diabetes,” says the report.

Head of nutrition in Kenya’s Ministry of Health Gladys Mugambi said that although Kenya is on the right track as a country, there is still a need for collective action among all stakeholders to stop malnutrition by 2030.

“Micronutrient deficiencies and stunting result in impaired cognitive development in children. We need to bring an end to malnutrition by supporting adequate nutrition,” said Ms Mugambi, adding, “Every child in Kenya has a right to basic nutrition according to Article 53 (1c) of the Constitution, which if properly implemented could reduce illnesses and premature deaths associated with malnutrition and stunted growth. Evidence shows that improved nutrition enhances GDP growth.”

According to the report, nutrition surveillance — the ongoing collection of information on nutrition outcomes and actions — is vital for governments and agencies so that they can promptly respond to changes in the nutritional status of their population.

Mobile phone technology is one of the innovations being used to make nutrition surveillance more efficient and cost-effective.
Agencies are increasingly integrating mobile phones into their nutrition surveillance.

The report notes that Tanzania’s efforts were particularly thorough, as they included a full review of public expenditures related to nutrition.

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