According to the joint assessment report on adolescent nutrition policy and programming in Kenya released by The Ministry of Health, the World Food programme and Unilever, micronutrient deficiencies, particularly zinc, iron, and vitamin A are highly prevalent in Kenya.
The report shows that iron deficiency is the highest contributor to the high anaemia rates amongst all highlighted vulnerable groups, pointing to poor dietary iron intake among this group.
World Food Day is celebrated annually on 16th October and this year’s focus is a drive towards achieving Zero Hunger and eliminating malnutrition.
“The drive towards zero hunger can only be achieved through public and private sector partnerships to champion key elements of the targets set to eliminate malnutrition and world hunger as a whole,” said Dr. Myriam Sidibe, Hygiene & Nutrition Social Mission Director Africa, Unilever andSenior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Centre for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.
“That’s why we’re keen on such partnerships to address the micronutrient challenges in the country that will help monitor progress towards achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she added.
“In Kenya, one in four women of reproductive age suffers from iron deficiency. We are committed to doing more to create access to healthy diets, safe nutrition and health,” said Dr. Sidibe.
Since May, Unilever, through its Royco Brand, has engaged in a nationwide behavior change campaign creating awareness about iron deficiency. The campaign, carried out in conjunction with Christian Aid, covered Narok, Kisumu, Nyeri and Mombasa counties. Unilever also recently launched Royco iron fortified beef cubes into the market as part of the Get Your Iron Up campaign to boost iron uptake in meals across the country.
“Our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our consumers is evident in how we bring innovative food products to the market and in our community engagement efforts to sensitize the masses towards the iron deficiency challenge in the country as well as promote preventative behaviour change through nutritious cooking,” said Godwin Bamsa, Assistant Deploy and Nutrition Manager at Unilever.
“We know that the higher cost of nutritious foods explains why food insecure families are at a higher risk of iron deficiency. We wanted to show them that even the simplest and most readily available meals, such as sukuma wiki, can have added nutritious value when mixed with iron-rich foods such as spinach. Changing consumer tastes are critical to the direction our food system evolves in. Diversified diets improve human health and benefit the environment through diversified production systems that encourage more sustainable use of resources and greater biodiversity. As a brand, we have the power to start a movement to affect this change, through our millions of consumers in Kenya,” said Dr. Sidibe.
The campaign, which included a four-week schools’ programme where teenage girls were taught about iron deficiency anaemia and nutritious cooking to increase the iron content of meals, reached over 36,000 girls and over 30,000 mothers across the country.
Christian Aid Country Manager in Kenya Dr. John Kitui said that the negative effects of adolescent malnutrition, especially deficiency in energy, protein, calcium and iron, persist throughout a woman’s reproductive life.
“Changes in eating habits and food choices can have significant impact on adolescent nutrition hence the necessity for nutritional fortification, said Dr. Kitui.