Kenya needs more collaborative, systematic and holistic approach for improving the health and nutrition in women, children and adolescent girls; this is the clarion call yielded at the 2nd scientific conference courtesy of the Partnership for Strengthening Maternal, Newborn, Child Health and Nutrition (PSMNCHN) on February 5th and 6th 2020 in Nairobi.
The two-day event held at Safari Park Hotel offered a rich moment of knowledge exchange and skills development amongst key implementing and supporting stakeholders across the country. Funded by the Global Affairs of Canada, the PSMNCHN partnership laid a strong focus on the key priorities identified in 2019 during the first conference “of sharing lessons learned on best practices across RMNCHN projects for effective programming and influencing of policies.”
Delegates made submissions of successes and lessons learned from particular initiatives carried out in at least 10 counties across the country.
The program has so far registered improvement in mother and child indicators, ante-natal clinics (ANC) visits, skilled deliveries, and increased maternal knowledge and feeding practices among under-five-year-olds. Further, submissions made showed there was an improvement in exclusive breastfeeding and dietary diversity within target areas.
Key players in the interventions mutually agreed that there is a need to scale up the successful interventions besides using the knowledge products and lessons learned to improve the quality of care offered in health centers.
In appreciation of the existing policy frameworks supporting the interventions such as the Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya Health Policy among others; the Ministry of Health – conference secretariat’s government partner – affirmed that there is political goodwill in the pursuit of improved health and nutrition in women, children, and adolescent girls.
Dr. Mercy Mwangangi, CAS Ministry of Health said: “Our special focus is on health education, equality in the provision of healthcare, sustainability on all the resources placed in healthcare facilities.”
The CAS said that primary healthcare remains a cornerstone of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC). She crusaded for community participation for the success of UHC program.
Prof. Marleen Temmerman, Director of Centre of Excellence in Women and Children at Agha Khan University Africa said the “rights of women and girls are central to these interventions.”
The Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya Lisa Stadelbauer reiterated the commitment by the Global Affairs Canada towards the program. She expressed her optimism that the journey was promising.
“The Government of Canada believes that no woman should die when giving birth. We are proud of the achievements made by the Ministry of Health and partners in supporting the reduction of maternal and newborn mortality rates.”
She affirmed that their focus is to have women and girls globally achieve their dreams and be the best versions of who they want to be.
Dr. Mercy Mwangangi pronounced that the government recognizes if it invests in a woman, she will be able to multiply the resources for the benefit of the people around her.
Poor dietary habits pose a great challenge to proper maternal and child health. Stakeholders at the conference registered commitments to collaborate more to secure success in the overall goal of the initiative.
“Good Nutrition is the difference between giving birth to a child and letting the child thrive”, Martha Nyagaya, the Country Director – Nutrition International asserted.
Dr. Joyce Malinga, of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), lobbied other partners to integrate agriculture as a key component in the MCNHN projects in the country.
“You cannot talk about health and fail to talk about food. Let food be your medicine,” stated Dr. Malinga.
“You are so excited about food & nutrition. Tell us the kind of food and nutrients the population needs. We’ll give you,” she added.
Part of the key priority areas by the partners moving forward include; proper coordination between the national and county governments, the establishment of a strategic information system, focus on adolescent health, advocacy and demand creation for family planning, integration of services and sustainable financing of MCNHN projects.
The Partnership for Strengthening Maternal, Newborn, Child Health and Nutrition in Kenya (PSMNCHN) is an initiative by six organizations contributing to addressing the challenges faced in Maternal, Newborn, Child and Nutrition (MCNHN) in Kenya in line with global, regional and national policies and commitments.
Global Affairs Canada has been at the forefront in supporting the initiative to address maternal, newborn and child mortality through Canada-Africa ties.
The partnership was launched in November 2016 with a vision of developing and sharing knowledge products geared towards contributing to the knowledge pool on MNCHN locally, nationally and internationally; change and enrich policy at the National and Country level.
Through its first scientific conference in February 2019, the partnership presented the opportunity to share innovations that will support the delivery of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), food and nutrition security and sexual reproductive health and rights.