Alarm as report shows at least 18% of Kenyan children have stunted growth

Stunting is defined as low height-for-age and is measured by comparing the height of a child against the international benchmark for a child of the same age./Courtesy

Eighteen in every 100 Kenyan children are stunted, underlining the challenge of inadequate access to a healthy and balanced diet being faced by many households.

This is according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey published on Tuesday.

The report released by the Kenya National Bureau of statistics (KNBS) reveals stunting is higher among children in rural areas at 20 per cent compared to children in urban areas (12 per cent).

Stunting is defined as low height-for-age and is measured by comparing the height of a child against the international benchmark for a child of the same age.

It is caused by a poor diet in a child’s first 1,000 days of life and has severe, irreversible consequences on physical health and cognitive functioning, experts say.

According to experts, the first few years of life from conception onwards are critical for brain development.

The KNBS report shows stunting reduces with increasing wealth. It also says the malaise has decreased nationally from 40 per cent in 1993, to 18 per cent.

The report says 22 per cent of children born to mothers with no education are stunted, as compared with nine per cent of children born to mothers with post-secondary education.

There are wide variations in cases of stunting across the counties.

The highest percentages are in Kilifi, West Pokot, and Samburu (37 per cent, 34 per cent , and 31 per cent, respectively) and the lowest in Kisumu and Garissa (at nine per cent each).

Writing in The Lancet medical journal, scientists, in a recent report, highlighted strong evidence linking stunting and extreme poverty to reduced cognitive and educational development, poorer adult health, and lower earnings.

Factors leading to stunting include poor nutrition and sanitation, infections, lack of nurturing care, and inadequate stimulation in the early years.

Sustained high living costs in recent months have hurt households already subjected to high fuel and food prices, compelling some low-income families to only eat one meal a day.

The World Bank previously warned that childhood stunting was a ‘great unrecognised disaster’.

It said countries that failed to invest in early child development would be left behind because their future workforce would lack the intellectual capacity to compete in an increasingly complex, digital world.

A separate recent Lancet report highlighted the importance of providing free pre-school education, parental leave to support bonding and childcare, support for breastfeeding, and a minimum wage sufficient to lift families out of poverty.

The Standard

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