Civil Societies Mobilised to Scale Up Nutrition in Kenya
Titus Mung’ou is the Advocacy and Communications Manager at Action Against Hunger (ACF) and Chair of Kenya’s Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society (SUN CSA).
Two years since establishment, SUN Civil Society Alliance (SUN CSA) has made significant gains by mobilising 42 organisations at the national level and 30 others in counties, advocating for nutrition. Most members of SUN CSA are non-governmental organisations, humanitarian, human rights, education, health, consumer and women empower groups.
Malnutrition is a significant public health problem in Kenya. It is estimated that 26% of Kenyan children are stunted (below adequate height for age).
Consequently, Kenya was identified in the 2013 Lancet series on under nutrition as one of the 36 countries that carry 90 percent of the global burden of stunting. Malnutrition in children is particularly damaging since the effects are irreversible, resulting in permanent impairment of cognitive function and impacting on the quality of life and productivity of an individual, and as a consequence the national economy.
Regrettably, Kenya’s progress in reducing under nutrition has been very slow, at an average annual rate of 0.6–2.5 percent.
With support from SUN Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), Population Reference Bureau, ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnerships and individual members, the CSA has coordinated nutrition advocacy at national level and in 9 out of 47 counties. Nutrition advocacy workshops conducted by SUN CSA act as platforms to sensitise political leaders, government officers, nutrition stakeholders and journalists, on their role in scaling scale up nutrition. The civil society network is currently supporting the the Ministry of Health to develop a national advocacy strategy papers and advocacy tools, which will be essential in promoting the nutrition agenda.
Over the last one year, members of CSA have been involved in the development and review of county development plans and budgets, with specific focus on health and nutrition components. At least four counties have created clear budgets lines for nutrition programmes in the 2015/16 financial year, namely Baringo, Taita Taveta, Kajiado and West Pokot, which are supported by SUN CSA.
The network is also working with the SUN Government Focal Point and nutrition sector actors to disseminate the National Nutrition Action Plan, develop County Nutrition Action Plans and a national Nutrition Advocacy, Communications and Social Mobilization Strategy.
Key milestones in SUN CSA’s advocacy efforts:
- Conducted 11 nutrition and food security advocacy workshops at national and county levels.
- Trained over 200 officers from various SUN networks on nutrition and food security advocacy.
- Trained 31 media journalists on nutrition reporting
- Developed and presented 6 position papers on various nutrition issues, among them, the Draft Kenya Health Policy 2014-2030 and Health Bill 2014.
- Identified and sensitised three nutrition champions at the county level.
In February 2015, Kenya’s First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta was unveiled as the Nutrition Patron during a National Nutrition Symposium in Nairobi. This historic achievement, was lauded by SUN CSA as a good step towards positioning nutrition at the highest level in the government. The First Lady has since promoted nutrition issues through her Beyond Zero Campaign, where she advocates for reduction of maternal and child deaths through provision of mobile maternity clinics to various counties.
The SUN CSA has three main issues in focus: Elevation of the status of nutrition in the government structures, mainstreaming of nutrition as a multi-sectoral development agenda and increase of nutrition resources (budgets and manpower).