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Cook for your children, state tells parents

 Orphan children of Tabarak Children's Home share a meal donated by Members of the Dawoodi Bohra Community at Kisauni in Mombasa County. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The government has appealed to parents to cook for their children to avert malnutrition.

Through the Ministry of Health, the government said lack of nutritional knowledge, lack of food and time to cook are among major contributors to malnutrition across the country.

Deputy Health Division of Nutrition and Dietetics, at the Ministry of Health Leila Odhiambo said current trends show that parents especially those in the working class are reluctant to prepare meals for their children.

This, she said has contributed to starvation.

According to her, diet rich in micronutrients including vitamin A, Zinc, Iodine, iron, folic acid and vitamin B are key in the development, and growth of a child.

“Children with low uptake of micronutrients are likely to suffer from a range of diseases like anaemia, diarrhoea, malaria,” said Odhiambo.

She encouraged feeding on five food types namely vegetables, fruits, protein sourced from both animal and plants, vegetables and carbohydrates.

Odhiambo spoke during Kenya’s third National Food Fortification Summit held in Nairobi.

“Micronutrients are of great public importance, and failure to have led to mortalities, especially children below five years,” said Odhiambo.

Her remarks came after a report released by the ministry indicated at least 45 per cent of children below the age of five years in Kenya die because of under-nutrition.

Kilifi, West Pokot and Samburu are the top five counties with cases of children being too thin for their growth (wasting) at 37, 34 and 31 per cent, respectively.

Other counties with the highest cases include Meru and Kitui at 25 per cent.

The report released earlier today showed at least 203, 168 cases or children being too thin have been reported in the five top counties.

Ministry of Health attributed under-nutrition to lack of food and lack of knowledge on diet.

But Odhiambo argued that the Ministry of Health, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and partners, are training food manufacturers on the importance of fortifying meals.

Fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to meals highly consumed to increase their nutritional value.

According to Kenya Foods Drugs and Chemical Substance Act, fortification requires that all salts for human consumption, packaged maize flour, wheat flour, fats, oil be fortified with specific vitamins and minerals.

Fortification is encouraged in highly consumed meals, that reach to a larger population.

“We encourage mass fortification of meals with salt, iodine, and oil, more so in highly consumed meals like wheat and maize flour,” said Odhiambo.

In 2011, the National Micronutrients survey found high anaemia level in the population more so in women who are pregnant and reproductive age 15 to 49 years.

Her sentiments were echoed by Prof. Daniel Sila, Principal of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at  Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) who encouraged manufacturers to fortify foods for nutritional value.

The university is conducting capacity building on fortification, and analysis.

The university has been fortifying foods in liaison with KEBs for the past five years.

“Fortification of maize flour and salt has greatly reduced cases of goiter disease and malnutrition,” said Prof Sila.

The researcher added, “Everybody eats ugali, and salt. This is why we encourage food manufacturers to fortify the meals to read a larger population”.

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