This year, Sauri Millennium Village, Western Kenya, marked the half-way point in the project. With five years of successful innovations and interesting challenges behind it, and five to go to the Millennium Development Goals deadline, our aim now is to strengthen our links with the local authorities and ensure that they will take our interventions on board, and pursue them beyond 2015.
With this in mind, Sauri recently hosted a team from the nutrition department of the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Program (NASCOP) on a three-day study tour. The team, which included the Chief Nutritionist from the Ministry of Medical Services, the Nutrition Program Manager and the Nutrition and Counseling Advisor, wanted to monitor our work in the linked fields of nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and see the interventions being carried out within the community and at the health facilities.
In our attempt to give people with HIV/AIDS not just medical but also social and economic assistance, we have helped set up a support group in Sauri. The official Kenyan team sat down with the Uyoga group, which has started a poultry rearing business, and they discussed the new experience, as well as challenges and future plans. The NASCOP members advised the group to boost their business by integrating it with indigenous vegetable farming and dairy cattle if possible.
Another aspect of close involvement with the villagers is our community health workers (CHW) program. The CHWs and their supervisors explained to the team how they provided nutritional advice to families and managed children with acute malnutrition at the household level. They also raised the issue of asking working mothers to breastfeed exclusively during the first 6 months of life.
The team then visited Sauri’s biggest health centre to assess the implementation of the national guidelines on infant and young child feeding, as well as the treatment of malnourished mothers and children with the Ready to Use Foods (RUTF) and Food by Prescription (FBP), both therapeutic foods used in the management of severe acute malnutrition. The team discussed with the clinicians the revised guidelines for infant and young child feeding and methods to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS from nursing mothers to their babies. During this meeting, the need to effectively roll out these guidelines across the health facilities from the provincial and district hospitals was highlighted.
At Siaya District Hospital, the main referral facility in the area, the team visited the maternal and child health clinic to determine how nutrition activities have been integrated into other service deliveries. They also checked storage processes at the stores where foods for malnourished children and women are kept.
The Chief Nutritionist, Rosemary Ngaruro, stressed the need for strengthening partnerships with the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), as she was impressed with the nutrition interventions, in particular the notable reductions in malnutrition prevalence.
As this visit, the first of its kind, concluded successfully, we hope that it will lead to the establishment of a formal partnership with the NASCOP who would support our team with community health worker and nutrition guidelines and training materials, as well as resource personnel for HIV/AIDS and nutrition modules. We, in return, would be expected to use data from the MVP to inform guidelines on best practices and discuss ways in which these interventions can be scaled up at the district level.
Dr. Margaret Wagah is the Regional Nutrition Advisor for East & Southern Africa. She is based in at the MDG Centre in Nairobi, Kenya
Jackline Oluoch is a Regional Community Health Worker Program Coordinator for East & Southern Africa. She is based at the MDG Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.