Rose Walinga, 50, works as a community health volunteer (CHV) in Alego Usonga sub-County. She visits households to identify pregnant women and new mothers whom she advises on basic treatment and services.
Ms Walinga said that among her roles as a CHV is training pregnant women and new mothers on nurturing care for early childhood development.
She said the main objective of the nurturing care project is to ensure children in the county survive, thrive, and develop to their maximum potential when they are between zero and three years.
“We teach them how to communicate with their babies when they are still in the womb and also how to talk and play with them after birth for the first three years. This is important for brain development,” she said.
Walinga said that during their visits to households, they also test for pregnancy and refer mothers who test positive to hospitals for clinics.
“We usually advise them to go to clinic, start eating healthy and talking with the foetus as soon as we confirm the pregnancy. We also talk to the fathers because their role from conception to when a baby is three years old is crucial for the baby’s brain development and other physical developments,” she said.
Statistics show that stunted growth in Siaya County has gone down since the introduction of nurturing care and nutrition programming.
The integration of nurturing care and nutrition programming has seen an increase in exclusive breastfeeding and early initiation to breastfeeding in more than 90 per cent of the county.
Previously, these indicators were below 50 and 60 per cent, according to the Education department.
Nurturing care is ensuring caregivers and expectant mothers understand that life begins at conception and so when a woman conceives, she should interact with the foetus and also engage it through touch. This, according to experts, helps in brain development that begins at conception and ends at the age of three years.
Siaya First Lady Roselle Rasanga launched a campaign on nurturing care for early childhood development in 2018.
According to a survey conducted in 2019 by Amref, Matibabu Foundation of Health and Nawiri Programme who are partners working with the county to implement the nurturing care and nutrition programme, stunted growth has decreased from 25 per cent in 2018 to less than 21 per cent.
A Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) report stated that out of 200,000 children under five, 25 per cent were stunted. According to the report, at least 50,000 children under age five in Siaya were stunted due to chronic malnutrition, poverty and lack of responsive caregiving.
“Routine reporting by community health volunteers has helped improve dietary practices and frequencies in the over 250,000 households. This impacts significantly on the management of malnutrition,” said Education Executive member Rosenell Odondi.