The need to eradicate malnutrition is dire and urgent actions must be taken to salvage the situation. This cuts across all the carders of nutrition causing a triple burden, ranging from undernutrition, and overnutrition to micronutrient deficiencies. In Kenya, 18% of children under 5 years are stunted and 5% are underweight and 3% overweight. Nevertheless, 33% of women aged 15–49 years are overweight or obese.
The prevalence of stunting has decreased significantly since 1993 with a significant drop margin from 2009(35%) to 2022(18%). Overweight and underweight have been small over the same period but with close margins. Thanks to the growth of technology that continues to make the dissemination of nutrition-promoting information convenient. With the tech growth rate of 10.8% annually since 2016, the impact can now be felt.
The 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) shows some positive benchmarks but the burden still persists. There is much commitment to eradicating malnutrition by 2027 by the government of Kenya that is in line with agenda 2063 aspiration. FSPN Africa is not exceptional in the same regard. The major route we align in is using modern agriculture for increased proactivity and production.
The National Nutrition Symposium series has been in the driver’s seat for four years now to evaluate progress in eradicating malnutrition as a nation.
This year’s Nutrition symposium was organized and occasioned on 14th and 15th March 2023, to raise awareness on nutrition and at the same time share knowledge that has been acquired over time on good practices to address the nutrition problem in Kenya.
Eradicated malnutrition in all its forms: Step up Political, multisector, and interdisciplinary actions towards nutrition resilience.
The Rationale of the Symposium
It provided an opportunity to share knowledge and disseminate existing evidence on methods and best practices with legislators on what works and what needs to be brought to scale to bring the malnutrition problem in Kenya to Zero. It also gave Kenya an opportunity to join the rest of Africa in celebrating the Africa Year of Nutrition. Various policy papers, guidelines, and Strategy documents relevant to malnutrition issues will also be launched.
All of this year’s symposium themes align squarely with FSPN approaches and the 2023 theme but much focus was directed to:
- Agri-food system transformation for healthy diets: Nexus was practicing nutrition-sensitive climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive value chain interventions for sustainable safe and healthy diets.
- Digitalization and innovation for nutrition: Nexus was contributions towards nutrition through technology and innovations (adoption of digital tools, data, etc in Nutrition)
The 2019 Cost of Hunger Study Kenya report estimated that undernutrition costs Kenya KES. 374B. This is a painful pinch to the GDP and hence the need to augment agriculture is far more critical. All the heads in the symposium were directed to the above 2 themes; that Agriculture digitalization was the prime way we need to go and scale it for our present and future food security.
- Who is controlling what is being sold? Clear pathways need to be elaborated on who is responsible for different nodes of the food system. These responsibilities need to be guided by food safety standards, nutrition-sensitive, production, and distribution. Someone needs to come out to speak when a given node is affected to ensure a reliable supply.
- How is nutrition expenditure going to benefit the programs that convergently contribute towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition using diverse approaches? There is a need to have more financing for preventive nutrition that looks at strengthening innovations in food sources.
- Assessment results of high months of availability indicated that healthy food consumption happens during harvesting times. During low seasons in areas like Kitui, 60% of the population eats 1-2 food groups which is not close to minimally acceptable diets and meal frequency. An enormous resource base is needed to prevent the replication of such scenes in other regions.
- There is a need for wide adoption of high-nutrition value crops that can in turn boost nutrition well-being. This is possible through proper knowledge dissemination and proper utilization of extension services to support nutrition i.e. through IoT.
- Agriculture and nutrition knowledge conjointly can improve nutrition and productivity. Good nutrition itself has proven seasoned ability to break the vicious cycle of poverty which was evident by various policy briefs and reports presentations.
- Multisector collaboration is inevitable as one of the leeway to better increase the Agri-nutrition implementation strategy (ANIS). This means more financing is needed to scale the nutrition programs for them to influence change and technical support.
- The National Information Platform for Food Security and Nutrition (NiPFN) received public revelation. This will be the one-stop shop database for all nutrition-related policy frameworks and publications including research and project reports.
New policy Briefs and Framework documents launched include:
- Kenya Agri-Nutrition-Implementation-Strategy 2020-2025.
- Policy Brief: Improving Dietary Diversity and Child Nutrition among Small-holder Irrigation Farmers.
- Policy Brief: A Framework for Harmonizing Nutrition Indicators in Kenya.
- Policy Brief – Hit and Miss: Eligibility Criteria for Child Nutrition Improvement Programme in Kenya.