Why nutrition and family planning programs need to be integrated

Finah Chemiat with her son Levy on her first visit to the clinic

Finah Chemiat with her son Levy on her first visit to the clinic

On the month of November while on routine supervisory visit in one of the Huduma Poa franchise facilitates in Trans-Nzoia County, I met Levy a 3 year old who was extremely malnourished.

His eyes were clear and full of life, only that his body betrayed the look in his eyes. He was frail and only weighed 7 kilograms. A child Levy’s age should be weigh 11 to 12 kilograms.
This day he was feeling unwell and had been brought to Seed of Hope Clinic for treatment by the mother.
The mother is a 22 year old housewife with two children; the first born being Levy and last born a 3 month old girl.
Finah and her husband live a modest life in a small center off Kitale town. The two dropped out of primary school and have no steady source of income. At times the husband works as a grounds man in the clinic compound.
The income he earns is insufficient to take care of his family’s basic needs he says. Their meals are mainly composed of ugali made of maize flour and kales; sometimes they take a mixture of beans and maize and Levy grew up taking lots of maize flour porridge for meals.
The boy was severely malnourished, which led to delayed milestones and stunted growth. He looked like a 6 month old child and when I talked to the mother to inquire about the possible causes of her child’s condition she said: “Nimejaribu kumlisha lakini sioni mabadiliko.” (I have tried to feed him but his condition has not improved).
After a lengthy conversation with Finah, she saw the need to call her husband who came from home and joined us in a health talk. I talked to the couple regarding nutrition and family planning in relation to quality of life since they were not on any contraceptive.
The husband was enthusiastic about the idea of contraception and encouraged the wife to start using any method of family planning but Finah said she would think about it. She felt that the health of her the boy was more of a priority this day.
Levy was referred to Namanjalala Health Centre for further management which comprises of nutritional counselling and food offered by prescription to the child.
After a month, Finah came back to the clinic a happy woman thanking the provider for the health messages we shared. She reported that the boy had improved and was in good health. She was ready to take up a contraceptive method and settled on a 3 year Implanon.

She was hopeful that her 3 months old baby will not be malnourished like the first born.
In the view of health workers, the primary cause of malnutrition is poor feeding, especially at the time of weaning and up to the age of five years.
Even though efforts are made to teach mothers the principles of a balanced diet and the importance of suitable weaning foods given frequently during the day, the ability of parents to provide the right nutrition plays a major role in managing malnutrition and emphasizing family planning as a way of spacing birth and controlling child birth to a number a couple can manage will come a long way in improving quality of lives.
The key to sustaining this momentum lies in the health education and mobilization forums that give the clients an opportunity to share their fears, myths, misconceptions and experiences about family planning and cervical cancer screening.
By Beatrice Amayo
Quality Assurance Officer, KMET

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