High Cases Of Stunted Growth Worry Health Experts

A worrying trend of children with stunted growth is creeping in Meru County, raising concerns over the value of food that parents feed their children.

According to data by Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), shows that about 25 per cent of children under the age of five in Meru County, face stunted growth problem.

Meru ranked fourth after Kilifi, where 37 per cent of children are stunted, West Pokot (34 per cent) and Samburu (31 percent).

Stunting is described as low height for age. It can be managed for children below the age of two years.

Ms Hellen Ringera, head of Nutrition in Meru County, notes that the trend is worrying since stunting is known to affect cognitive performance of a child in their adulthood.

She pointed out that on average 188,000 children in the region are stunted due to poor feeding habits.

'If the stunting is not reversed before the age of two years, the child cannot achieve their full potential in life,' she said.

The nutritionist said the high cases of stunting have been linked to poor feeding and low uptake of antenatal and post-natal care among mothers.

'Many mothers feed their children with one type of food. In this county for instance, mothers give their children mashed potatoes and bananas, which are all carbohydrates. We encourage mothers to ensure a child's food includes proteins, vitamins and other minerals,' she said.

She challenged families to establish kitchen gardens and rear small stock such as chicken, rabbits and goats to diversify their children's diet.

Ms Ringera also attributed the feeding inadequacies to the high percentage of teenage mothers in the County.

The KDHS report indicated that 24 per cent of women aged 15-19 have ever been pregnant in Meru.

The survey showed that only 45 per cent of women go for the recommended four antenatal care visits during pregnancy.

'In most cases, teenage mothers do not seek antenatal care where advice on taking care of the unborn child starts. The teenagers also lack knowledge and skills on parenting,' she explained.

According to Ms Ringera, Igembe North has the highest cases of stunting followed by Igembe Central, Tigania East and Tigania West as well as Buuri East.

'You also find that the affected areas have challenges of food insecurity. We are intensifying community education and Vitamin A supplementation to address the challenge. More resources are needed to reach out to mothers with education on child feeding.'

She said the County intends to reduce stunting to below 10 percent by 2027.

Source: Kenya News Agency