Progress on Nutrition Advocacy in Kenya

Today is #WorldHealthDay. This year, the focus of World Health Day is food safety, and the importance of preventing foodborne illnesses.  This also provides a springboard to talk about another aspect of food safety: nutrition. Safe and nutritious food is essential to ensure the healthy development of the world’s children. 

While undernutrition is a leading killer of the world’s children, funding for nutrition investments specifically targeted at addressing malnutrition remains shockingly low. For instance, only about 0.4% of all official development assistance goes towards global nutrition efforts.

ACTION sat down with James Adede, a nutrition advocate in Kenya, to discuss his work to improve funding for nutrition in Kenya. James is an Executive Committee member of the Kenya Civil Society Nutrition Executive Committee, and is Kenya’s country representative for the Generation Nutrition Campaign.

What part of your nutrition advocacy work are you most excited about?

In Kenya, at the county-level, we are holding nutrition advocacy trainings. But these aren’t just any trainings. They are trainings for key policy makers in different districts – ministers, parliamentarians, senators, people in charge of budgets. Through these workshops, we help decision makers understand the state of nutrition in their county and the impact undernutrition has on children. We help them to understand the reality on the ground.

For instance, we let them know that a lack of nutrition can hinder the brain development of a child. Some are not aware of this, and are shocked about this fact.  

After we provide this information we discuss actions that can be taken at the county-level and nationally to address undernutrition.  At the end of the workshop, many policy makers made commitments to increase funding for nutrition at the county level. For instance, one county increased its budget from .4% to 6% for nutrition in this fiscal year.

We have also formed nutrition champions among Ministers, and members of county councils. These people are at the front of efforts to ask questions about nutrition and to push the nutrition agenda among other policy makers. 

This progress is exactly what makes me passionate about this work.

Why did you decide to work on nutrition advocacy?

I have seen children die from malnutrition in Kenya, while knowing that this is an issue that can be easily be solved. This is, very simply, what drove me to be a champion for nutrition.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I want us to keep up our momentum in terms of successful engagement with the media. If an issue is not in the media, politicians don’t think it’s a problem. So if we want to see nutrition be better-resourced by policy makers, we must ensure journalists have the tools and the interest to document nutrition issues.

Second, we must also keep up the pressure to ensure nutrition commitments are being fulfilled. So we need trained and knowledgeable grassroots community advocates, who are informed about important matters like budgets, to keep up the pressure to ensure policy makers keep their commitments both nationally and internationally. There is also much more we can do in terms of training policy makers. So far with our program, we’ve only gone to three counties, but we want to do more to reach additional counties. Together with Kenya SUN Civil Society Alliance we can get more support, and leverage even greater outcomes.