Child Nutrition at Kidogo
This post was written by Winnie Odhiambo, Nutrition & WASH Assistant and one of the newest members of our Kidogo Way department.
Kidogo’s mission is to ensure young children, particularly those in low-income areas, are able to receive affordable and quality early childhood care & education to ensure they can reach their full potential. Our holistic approach, The Kidogo Way, provides training & mentorship to caregivers and parents on play based learning, nurturing care, creating safe and stimulating environments and ensuring good nutrition, health, and hygiene practices.
As an organization, we consider the Health & Nutrition of young children in our network as a critical component in their healthy growth & development. Indeed, initial studies show that 40-50% of young children in the informal settlements where we work suffer from malnutrition. Kidogo works closely together with the Kenya Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide growth monitoring and health promotion activities that are essential to achieve this objective.
Growth Monitoring: In Kenya it is common for parents to stop growth monitoring their child after the second measles vaccine dose (around 18 months). However, growth monitoring and promotion is supposed to be done until 5 years of age according to MoH protocols, in order to identify children suffering from malnutrition that is chronic and severe enough to cause stunting, and/or wasting. Undernutrition is responsible for the highest mortality rate in children and has long-lasting effects, including reduced brain development, an increased susceptibility to fat accumulation, lower resting and postprandial energy expenditure, insulin resistance in adulthood, hypertension, dyslipidemia and a reduced capacity for manual work, among other impairments - all of which can be prevented with regular growth monitoring.
Supplementation and Deworming: As a result of growth monitoring, we can identify children who are undernourished, suffering from stunting or wasting, have Vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiencies, or worm infestations. These are conditions that require nutrient supplementation and deworming.
How Kidogo supports Good Nutrition: Daycares and early childhood centers in the Kidogo network are fortuna
te to receive these services for children up to age 5 at several points throughout the year. In collaboration with the Community Health Departments & their Volunteers (CHVs), the Nutrition Team at Kidogo conducts regular growth monitoring throughout the year. Children who are recorded as being underweight, stunted, or wasting are referred to the nearest health centre where they are recommended a course of action by a trained medical professional. In addition, Kidogo supports linkages to ministry & partners programs on Vitamin A supplementation (bi-annually) and deworming (termly) for all children in the Kidogo Network as recommended.
Caregiver Education: Caregivers are a key pillar in our health & nutrition strategy. Mamapreneurs in the Kidogo network are trained on the importance of nutrition & health practices for child development. We partner with them, and our parents to craft nutritious menu plans for their centre, and ensure dietary diversity for children. We conduct regular parent’s meetings & community engagement sessions to educate parents on the importance of child nutrition, specifically around the importance of healthy snacks and balancing the at home dinner meal with the school’s menu.
So, what's next?: As we look to the future, we are experimenting with a few ideas for how we can take the next step in improving children's health & nutrition. For example, last year we started a pilot project called "Egg-a-Day" to increase protein intake for young children, a proven method to combat malnutrition & stunting rates. Funded by a generous donor (through this website!), we've run the program for a few months and are starting to see positive results.
When nutrition and deficiencies are discovered and managed early, and health and hygiene practices are ingrained it allows for the child to reach their full developmental potential. Combined with quality play-based learning, nurturing care, and safe environments, Kidogo is not only supporting the physical growth and health of children but also supporting the intellectual and psychological development.