Nyamira Sub County: Men challenged to get involved in maternal matters

Men in Nyamira County have been challenged to support nutrition related interventions for their families. In a sensitization meeting in Nyamira County, the men were urged to take an active role in maternal, infant and young child nutrition for better productivity in the county. “Where are the men in all this? This is the question Mr. Mogaka a church elder from SDA church and Mr. Ogembo a Community Health Worker in Nyamira Sub County asked in the meeting? In this meeting men were challenged to allow their women to take Iron and Folic Acid supplements which are free in government health facilities.

Even as talks continue in the country to ease pregnant women’s workload to enable them take enough rest during pregnancy and breast feed exclusively for the first 6 month of life, Imelda a Community Health Worker (CHW) thinks in Nyamira this will take a little longer. While acknowledging that Nyamira Sub- County has plenty of rainfall, good soil and hardworking people, food production and food security may not be a major challenge. “Inadequate knowledge, food taboos and heavy workload are a major impediment to nutritional health practices in Nyamira County.” Says Imelda.

Feeding practices affect education
Alkato Nyangau a Nutritionist in Nyamira Sub county while sensitizing the male opinion leaders and community health workers in a brainstorming session asked why in Nyamira sub county in 2013 there was no student who scored over 400 marks in their KCPE .Many reasons were attributed to this. Mr. Alkalto says there is urgent need to look at the feeding practices for the infants, young girls and pregnant women. Salome a CHW stressed that male involvement is important if the county is to make any remarkable progress in nutrition matters. In this community, a woman generally works for approximately 19 hours while men work for 9 hours says Mr. Alkalto who conducted a study on Infant feeding practices in Nyamira County.

A woman’s day traditionally begins at 4 am. She milks the cows, prepares break fast for the family prepares the children for school, cuts grass for the cows and then goes out to the farm either to weed crops or till the land. She then gets back home to prepare lunch for the children and as they go back to school she takes the animals to the field to graze. As the animals graze she also fetches firewood. When she gets back home in the evening she fetch water, milks the cows again, washes clothes especially the children school uniforms then starts to prepare the evening meal. This woman ensures the family have their dinner on time for the children to be able to do their homework which she has no time to help in. As others retire to sleep she has to wash the dishes before going to sleep really tired and waking up to the daily routine the next day All this time she has been too busy doing her daily chores that ‘ she has no time to rest, think about her IFAS nor eats well “laments Salome a CHW well familiar with the practices in this county . Those with young infants have no time even to breast feed. “The women here work like donkeys. While the women do all this work, the men spend their time in the market places in the name of looking for money, only to return with none.”

Mr. Nyangau says that male chauvinism is a major hindrance to nutritional status of both the mother and child in this sub county. The man has the final say whether the woman should take IFAS or not. In order to have a kitchen garden the directive has to come from the man. Dietary practices in Nyamira are affected by the lack of kitchen gardens where Iron rich crops can be grown. After the nutrition education meeting, men opinion leaders pledged to support their family nutritional status by setting aside a small piece of land to plant variety of Iron rich indigenous vegetables. They promised to advocate for consumption of balanced diet by changing the portions on the plate to include more vegetables, reduced carbohydrates where ugali and boiled bananas are the staplediet. Foods that have ready Iron or readily absorbed Iron like meats from animal sources will also be encouraged as they are rarely consumed.

Anaemia remains a major concern in many parts of the country and Nyamirais not an exception. As we approach the end of the millennium development Goals in 2015 and Kenya being among countries that sighed up to this agreement will have to account for the efforts and millage made in achieving this MGDs. Kenya like many other developing counties pledged to fight for the betterment of women and children’s health. MDG 4 & 5 which focuses on the reduction of maternal and infant mortality which are still below the 2015 target.A lot of effort has been put in place to reduce maternal Anaemia, which included malaria campaigns with free distribution of insecticide treated nets and deworming of pregnant mothers. While these are commendable steps they alone cannot solve anaemia in pregnancy, IFAS promotion also needs to be emphasised.

Iron and Folic Acid supplementation is a campaign the government through the nutrition Unit has put up in all the 47 counties in order to support the existing activities to prevent deaths related to anaemia. Health workers at different levels have been sensitized; Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials have been developed. Billy boards and signages in the hospitals have been set up and IFAS commodities increased in major GOK facilities for easy access by the pregnant women.

Media Campaigns both on radio and TV are ongoing. While training community health workers who will support pregnant women with messages and referral for IFAS which are free of charge, Male Opinion leaders were also sensitized in Nyamira County. The comprised mainly of pastors, deacons and bishops from several churches. They acknowledged having seen and heard all the efforts the Ministry of Health with the support of Centre for behaviour change and communication in partnership and with financial and technical support from Micronutrient Initiative (MI) in sensitizing the Kenyan population on IFAS.

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