Over 40 per cent of children under five years in Igembe region have stunted growth due to poor nutrition. Speaking at Maili Tatu Stadium in Igembe Central during the launch of a food fortification programme sponsored by the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) and Meru County Government last Wednesday, health officials blamed parents for putting emphasis on growing miraa as opposed to food crops.
GIZ’s Joshua Mokaya said 40 per cent of children who suffer stunted growth in Igembe was above the national average. “Parents have been giving their children an imbalanced diet. That is why we have launched a programme to ensure millers fortify their food with minerals, fats and other essential nutrients,” said Mr Mokaya, adding that an education programme for mothers was in the offing.
Meru County Acting Director of Public Health Ephantus Kariuki said many parents were feeding their children sodas and doughnuts, compromising their health.
“It is a pity that people here concentrate on growing the lucrative miraa, instead of also planting food crops. Some are too busy in the farms to prepare balanced meals for their children,” said Mr Kariuki. Meru Governor Peter Munya’s wife Phoebe, distributed free seeds to parents and urged them to inter-crop miraa and food crops.
“We want you to have kitchen gardens even as you grow miraa. We would also like mothers to breastfeed their children,” said Mrs Munya.
About 500,000 people in the region are dependent on miraa, including harvesters, middlemen, retailers, gardeners, loaders, drivers, and farmers.