During the first two weeks of May the Slovak team of field workers on behalf of Trnava university were part of very important event in whole Kenya – focused on child survival and development: ‘Malezi bora’. So how was this event connected to nutrition centers, supported by Slovak aid project in Kwale region?
The position of Kenya is still among the countries with low income and food deficit. In 2011 the UNDP Human Development Index for Kenya was designated as a country with low human development (located at 143rd place the developing world out of 187 countries).
According to Unicef report it is estimated that more than 23 000 child deaths are linked to increased vulnerability to infection (caused by lack of vitamin A) and around 70 % of children under age of six have subclinical vitamin A deficiency, so they are growing up with reduced immunity. The Kenyan Ministry of Health and Public Sanitation in cooperation with national and international NGOs is working hard on change and improvement of this situation thanks to massive supplementation campaign ‘Malezi Bora’. This year the event was successful also thanks to: Helen Keller International, Mercy-USA, Plan International, APHIA Plus, Kenya Red Cross, Population Services International, UNICEF, Nagasaki university, DSW and WOFAK.
The importance of Vitamin A for kids
More than 40 % of the world’s population suffers from micronutrient malnutrition, including vitamin A, iron, iodine, and zinc deficiencies. How is the situation in Kenya? Supplementation among populations who are at risk of vitamin A deficiency can reduce mortality rates of children between six months and five years of age by an average of 23 %. In Kenya, up to 85 % of children are vitamin A deficient, putting them at risk of illness and death.
What do we know about Vitamin A? One form of vitamin A: retinal is a part of the pigment in the retina of the eye (the light sensing structures). Vitamin A deficiency leads to night blindness. This vitamin is absolutely essential not only for good eye-visioning, but also for proper development of the fetus, it should not therefore be omitted from the diet. Thanks to its powerful ability to boost the immune system, vitamin A is a critical micronutrient for the survival and physical health of children exposed to disease.
Preformed vitamin A is found in foods of animal origin, whereas provitamin A carotenoids are found in yellow & orange-fleshed fruits, vegetables and in dark-green leafy vegetables. Palm oil is the universal source of provitamin A for the pharmaceutical industry. The ‘Malezi Bora’ campaign is focused on supplementation and distribution of Vitamin A two times in a year (in May and November) – because for kids under the age of six it is necessary to receive one vitamin tablet every 6 months.
The sustainability thanks to local community
Trnava University is providing the development activities in the district of Kwale for several years, currently in the project, titled: ‘Social and health care for malnourished children under 5 years and their mothers in the Kwale region’, funded by Slovak Aid. In the area of Kwale district hospital the Slovak team built the main nutritional center in Kwale supported by two rural centers (in Tiwi and Mkongani), which are great help for the community and which give an option to reduce malnutrition in this over-populated coastal area. Community health workers in these centers are responsible for the weekly monitoring of malnourished kids and mothers, distribution of porridge and beans to clients, as well as lectures for mothers (about the right breast-feeding, preparing food, proper nutrition, hygiene and micronutrient powders’ using).
For the last two weeks during ‘Malezi bora’ event the staff of Kwale district hospital: doctors, nurses, nutritionists in cooperation with NGOs (running project in coastal Kenya) were doing a good job in the field. The community health workers (trained thanks to development project of Trnava university) were present as well. It is a part of the strategy of project-sustainability – to build the capacities in this region, to give local people the opportunity to work and help their own people.
This seems to be the right way – how to help to improve the health of hundreds of mothers and children, and especially to reduce child mortality, which achieves at least one of the Millennium Development Goals (established by UN in 2000).
Writen by: Dr. Bozena Baluchova (development field worker of Trnava University in Kwale: https://twitter.com/bobinkha); Photo: Palo Markovic (photographer & development volunteer of Trnava University in Kwale: https://twitter.com/palomarkovic)