By Lorraine Anyango
Pomp, style, and a comprehensive exhibition of nutrition interventions carried out in the last two years marked the close of the USAID Advancing Nutrition project in Kisumu County.
The project which had four objectives of increased advocacy, resource mobilization, planning, and coordination, was implemented through a Multi-Sectoral Nutrition (MSN) coordination platform that brought together five sectors whose mandate incorporates a nutrition component.
The five sectors include Education; Health; Agriculture Livestock, Irrigation and Fisheries; Social Protection and Water.
The exhibition carried the spirit of the MSN successes for the project period which included enhanced nutrition advocacy, increased resource allocation for nutrition across the MSN departments as well as realization of joint planning and coordination of nutrition interventions.
At the exhibition booths, on display were Policy documents prepared during the project period including the Kisumu County Agri-nutrition Strategy 2023-2027, (CANIS) the Kisumu Nutrition Advocacy, Communication, and Social Mobilization Strategy 2023-2028 (ACSM) and the Kisumu County Nutrition Action Plan (CNAP).
At the Directorate of ECDE stand, the delegates saw the intervention in selected ECDE schools including growth monitoring and promotion using nutrition assessment tools, vitamin A and deworming, innovations around kitchen gardens to ensure the diversification of nutritious meals, and approaches towards sustaining school feeding programs. The delegates were shown how ECDs in Kisumu counties were innovatively carrying out growth monitoring and creativity of arts done by children under the age of five to demonstrate their understanding of nutrition.
The presence of ECD learners, reciting the poem ‘Lishe Bora’ played a testament to the success of nutrition advocacy carried out by the MSN across the board. The children confidently resounded lessons on nutrition by their teachers.
Inspired by the MSN engagements, the Department of Education is currently undertaking an ECD creative arts competition on nutrition from the wards and sub-county levels, a competition that focuses on nutrition among children who are not only beneficiaries but participants as well.
The Local Civil Societies who were part of MSN including Jiupachi and Kidogo as well as KUAP showcased the interventions they were carrying out in the communities around nutrition. Representatives of SUN Business Network also had a booth to showcase their products.
The event was graced by Mr. Mike Foley, USAID Advancing Nutrition Global Deputy Director, USAID Advancing Nutrition Chief of Party Mr. Peter Milo, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture, Irrigation Livestock and Fisheries, Kenneth Onyango, CECM Education Mr. John Awiti, representatives of National Nutrition Department, including Njeri Kabaji and Leila Adhiambo from Ministry of Agriculture and Health respectively. Directors and planners from Social Protection, Health, Education, Agriculture and Water were also present.
The event was also graced by the former CECM for Agriculture Mr. Gilchrist Okuom and the former Chief Officer Dr. Paul Omanga, the duo was instrumental in the setting up of the MSN coordination structures.
Mr. Foley said Kisumu is a good case study to share with the world on how the MSN platform has worked.
“The use of MSN findings in tracking nutritional interventions is very important, budget allocation for nutritionist very important, but the availability and use of use of funds is key and until that is done, we have not succeeded” He emphasized.
“Though you have included nutrition interventions in your budgets and your county Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) until the resources are used for nutrition we will not have success.” He said emphatically.
He said that the enthusiasm for Kisumu’s MSN is inspiring and it needs to continue adding that when policies are turned into action results can be seen.
He said that under the Advancing Nutrition Flagship project nutritional interventions have been carried out in varied ways in Uganda and Tanzania, while the Kisumu experience is comparable to the Mozambique one.
Mr. Milo congratulated Kisumu for the work done while mentioning the MSN milestones which included having a Nutrition investment case for Kisumu and working with Maseno University to integrate nutrition into their curriculum.
Both Masinde Muliro University, as well as Maseno University, were part of Kisumu’s MSN journey. The two institutions provided evidence and solutions for nutrition interventions and they took part in crafting nutrition advocacy messages that were used by nutrition champions during the project period.
“We need to create the position of a community nutritionist so that we don’t overburden the clinical nutritionist and reduce the numbers of people flooding our hospitals.” Dr. Pauline, Dean in School of Public Health from Maseno University suggested this during the closing workshop. She added that working with communities will deal with the underlining causes of malnutrition
The new curriculum set to have its first students in September 2024 will produce nutritionists who understand the food value chain and hence can also serve in the Agri-nutrition space. Dr Pauline said there is a need to invest in continuous research on nutrition.
The CECM for Agriculture, Mr. Onyangosaid they have advocated for the recruitment of an additional 101 Technical Staff, with 12 being Agri-Nutrition Staff to be employed within this current Financial Year 2023/2024.
The CECM Education. Mr Awiti in the closing remarks said that the Education Department is working on a policy that will see to it that institutions plant fruits and vegetables in every school.
“We will not fail; we will continue with the MSN work.” He committed.