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Mother to Mother support groups promote nutrition awareness in Kenya

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Country Network

Margaret Kali is satisfied with the results of the nutrition lessons and advice on breastfeeding she has received from the Mapenzi Mother to Mother Support Group training in Isiolo, a county north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Facilitated by Action Against Hunger, a member of the Kenyan Civil Society Alliance (CSA) supported by the SUN Movement Pooled Fund, the Mother to Mother Support Group acts as a platform to share knowledge on nutrition, health status and provide social support among its members. Just as the name Mapenzi (the Swahili word for love) entails, the group unites mothers and mothers to be in improving the nutrition status of its members and their families. As a mother of two children, Margaret explains how the training received helped to improve her health and the health of her family:

“I have learnt how to prepare nutritious meals for my family as taught during food demonstration sessions. I learnt that vegetables and fruits are essential and should be included in meals. I am currently taking advantage of the locally grown vegetables like ‘terere’ (amaranth leaves) and ‘kunde’ (cow peas leaves) which are usually in abundance during the rainy seasons to feed my family. Fruits like watermelons, mangos, oranges and bananas are also locally available and pretty cheap when in season. I will take advantage to feed my family on them during this time.”

Kenya’s SUN CSA was set up in October 2013 to mobilize civil society to champion scaling up nutrition in Kenya. Since May 2019, the SUN Movement Pooled Fund provides assistance to the CSA, concentrating on contributing financial and technical support. Now, 30 out of 47 counties in Kenya have County Nutrition Technical Forums and six costed nutrition action plans are funded locally.

As the world faces the global Covid-19 pandemic, Kenya’s SUN CSA plays an important role in ensuring that government responses are effectively coordinated and grounded in the realities of people’s lives. A crucial part of this prevention and mitigation strategy is to improve communities’ nutrition.

Margaret and her group members have received nine information sessions covering the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding and good health seeking behaviors since she joined the group. Margaret commends the work of the mothers’ nutrition group, saying,

“My eldest daughter Princess was born at home. I gave her water when she was one week old, then introduced her to solid foods at two months. Abraham, my second born whom I gave birth to at the hospital, is now five months and is still breastfeeding. I will introduce him to food at 6 months. I have already thought of how to introduce him to the foods”, Margaret said. She proudly added, “there is a big difference in their growth, because whereas Princess kept falling sick most of the time as she grew, Abraham rarely gets sick and is growing fine.”

In following its slogan of Mapenzi, the group also includes key influencers such as mother-in-laws, grandmothers and Traditional Birth Attendants who have great influence on the nutrition and health of pregnant and lactating mothers. The group has conducted training for its members on the correct use of Mid Upper Arm Circumference to detect malnutrition and treat it effectively. Margaret’s Mid Upper Arm Circumference was 18 centimeters, a clear sign of malnourishment. The correct detection of her nutrition status and the immediate referral by the lead mother for treatment at a health facility marked a positive turning pointfor Margaret’s deteriorating health

“I am grateful to the group because, I have been able to learn a lot on how to best feed my children and myself. I am now able to prepare nutritious and diverse meals for my family. This is owing to the support I have received from Mapenzi Mother to Mother Support Group. As group members, we are ready to take this message to other mothers and families who have not been reached and form many groups afterwards.”

Margaret hopes the Mapenzi Mother to Mother Support Group will continue with its advocacy in the communities, as its impact is crucial and visible in the lives of families and children in Isilo, as demonstrated by her own family.

What is the SUN Movement Pooled Fund?

The SUN Movement Pooled Fund was established as a source for catalytic funding to support Multi-Stakeholder Platforms in SUN Countries to increase the effectiveness and impact of national efforts to end malnutrition in all its forms.

Hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and integrated within the broader SUN Movement stewardship arrangements, the Pooled Fund supports the delivery of the SUN Movement Strategy and Roadmap (2016-2020), particularly focusing on strengthening national nutrition governance, joint implementation of national multisectoral nutrition plans, and increased capabilities of nutrition actors at national and sub-national level.

Kenya is a grantee under its Window 1 Cycle 2 call, aiming to develop in-country participation by non-state stakeholders in national multi-stakeholder platforms.

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