Food insecurity in Kenya: MOHI health team strives to make a difference
Raelyn Nicholson, nurse and CMF team member serving with the Missions of Hope health team, has spent the past several weeks traveling around Kenya assessing more than 1,500 pre-primary MOHI students for malnutrition, and some of the results were troubling.
“Food insecurity is becoming an even bigger problem worldwide,” said Raelyn. “During Covid, global hunger has shot up from 118 million people to 768 million and 34 million are on the brink of famine.”
However, there was good news in the Nairobi schools. Raelyn and Kendi, a nutritionist at MOHI, note that in the urban slums, they found a 25 percent decrease in malnutrition cases among MOHI pre-primary students.
“This is the result of one-on-one nutritional counseling that Kendi has provided to specific parents in combination with the children regularly receiving school meals,” said Raelyn “It has been encouraging to see progress.”
More help for Turkana
The situation is much different in the arid diaspora communities in Turkana County where MOHI has recently begun serving.
“Kendi and I spent a week in Turkana re-assessing more than 350 pre-primary students at three MOHI schools,” said Raelyn. “And we were fortunate to have visitors from Rocky Mountain Christian Church to help us perform growth monitoring in a way that fostered love and connection with our children. We were blessed by their support.”
Raelyn and Kendi discovered that even with MOHI school meals, 75 percent of the children were malnourished.
“During nutritional counseling sessions, our fears were confirmed: the only food these children received every day was given to them at school,” said Raelyn.
“We planned to distribute Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to the parents of children with moderate and severe malnutrition, but soon discovered our supply was not enough,” she added.
Brokenhearted, Raelyn and Kendi went to the nearest town and bought every package of fortified porridge they could find.
“We were comforted that at least these children had something while we worked with the schools to develop sustainable plans,” said Raelyn. “In meetings with the education leadership, we devised a blanket diet of high calorie, high-protein porridge, thrice-weekly milk and Saturday meals for all Turkana and Marsabit pre-primary learners. It’s a starting point.”
“Malnutrition will continue to be a predominant issue if we don’t address the root causes,” said Raelyn. “With that in mind, we continue to educate the pre-primary teachers in nutritional health and taking growth monitoring measurements monthly. We spent a full day in Turkana training all pre-primary teachers from the three schools. After the training, they felt empowered to respond to the nutritional needs of their little learners.”
For a bottom-up approach, the MOHI health team is also piloting “Gardens of Faithfulness” to teach students and parents how to grow nutritious plants so that food is always in the home.
“We are looking to expand this program to five more schools over the next year,” said Raelyn.
“Please pray for the children suffering from acute malnutrition and for MOHI to be able to procure RUTF to support the severe cases,” she added. “I have shed a lot of tears praying over this one.”