Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Tuesday made a rallying call for robust policy and funding interventions to help tackle malnutrition that affects an estimated 2 million children in the country.
Speaking during the launch of 2016 Global Nutrition Report in Nairobi, she stressed that nutrition security was key to Kenya’s socio-economic development.
“We require more investments in health and nutrition as a pre-condition to achieve economic growth in the country,” she said, adding that community-led interventions were key to eliminate malnutrition and stunting in rural areas and urban slums.
The launch of the report was held across the world to highlight progress countries have made towards achieving the UN target on eliminating malnutrition by 2030.
Kenya was chosen as the venue for the launch of the report due to significant milestones the country has achieved in eliminating hunger, malnutrition and stunting.
According to the First Lady, Kenya has outperformed its African peers in pioneering innovative programs to reduce childhood malnutrition and adult obesity.
“This year’s report singles out Kenya as the only country in Africa that is on course to achieve the five World Health Assembly targets on nutritional security,” she said.
She noted that implementation of national nutrition action plans has accelerated thanks to political goodwill and strategic partnerships.
The First Lady, who is the patron of the scaling-up nutrition, has mobilized local private sector, civil society and multilateral agencies to support interventions that address malnutrition.
Her “Beyond Zero” campaign has focused on nutritional security as an entry point to improving maternal and infant health in marginalized regions.
“Poor diet has devastating impact on the health of mothers and children. Interventions like exclusive breastfeeding not only boost a child’s health and cognitive abilities but have a direct bearing on economic growth,” she said.
She emphasized that data driven interventions, coupled with investments in personnel and public awareness, were key to combat malnutrition effectively.
To end malnutrition, the First Lady underlined the need for proper policy direction, national investment on the area of nutrition and awareness especially on the need for exclusive breastfeeding.