Good nutrition creates a brighter
future for Gilo

March 21, 2023 by ChildFund New Zealand

Four years ago, 6-year-old Gilo’s future was bleak. She was severely malnourished following a long drought in the eastern area of Kenya where she lives.

Today, her health has improved, she is getting the food she needs to grow well, and she is attending school.  With the help of ChildFund New Zealand and other members of ChildFund Alliance, her family is better prepared to get through drought and other times of crisis with the assistance of emergency food and cash transfers. Gilo’s future is looking much brighter. 

Gilo’s mum wants the same for her child as any mother. She wants Gilo to grow, develop and thrive. Good nutrition is essential to this for any child. 

Malnutrition remains one of the most significant global child health challenges and is included in the Global Goals, with a global objective to end hunger by 2030. 

Malnutrition is the impact of not having enough food, not having enough of the right foods or even, in the case of obesity, having too much of the wrong foods. The World Health Organisation says 45 per cent of deathsamong children under the age of five in low and middle-income countries can be linked directly to undernutrition, a lack of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.  

Even if not immediately life-threatening, the effects of malnutrition can cause permanent damage. Over the long-term, malnutrition weakens immune systems, which increases the risk of disease. It can lead to decreased energy to attend school, impacting their education and future employment prospects. Undernourished children are likely to be stunted, have less education, and have increased chronic disease. 

During a drought or food crisis, ChildFund’s emergency feeding programs mitigate starvation and reduce the risk of malnutrition. Distribution of ready-to-use foods, such as Plumpy Nut or Unimix, can mean the difference between life and death. Undernourished mothers are also more likely to give birth to babies who are underweight, which can result in an intergenerational cycle of undernutrition. 

Good nutrition is essential for a child’s health and development, which is why it is a key focus for ChildFund’s development programs. We work in partnership with local communities to establish nutrition groups and early childhood centres, so new mothers have access to all the information they need on child development and the importance of a healthy diet. 

For people living in Emali, where we work, they not only face the daily challenges of living in a poor and remote area where access to food, let alone nutrition, is hard enough but they are vulnerable to drought which can destroy their crops and leave families without food and income. Failing crops due to drought or other weather events can play a massive part in food shortages. 

We train farmers on the cultivation of new crop varieties, like our Moringa project with Emali farmers – this not only means families have more and healthier food to eat, but can also provide a new income source. In schools, we help children and teachers to plant gardens, increasing their understanding of how to grow fruits and vegetables, while also providing an additional food source for students. 

Recently, in the face of serious economic hardship from COVID-19, ChildFund’s agricultural project is a lifeline for farmers through access to improved agricultural and livestock practices and increased market linkages. So, families like Gilo’s have access to better economic opportunities.

The project started over five years ago and was funded by the New Zealand Government’s Aid Programme and ChildFund supporters. Our Kenyan colleagues, alongside local farmers, identified the need of improving agriculture practices as a way forward for these communities. During this project, New Zealand and Kenyan farming experts worked with local Maasai farmers to develop a project plan suited to the local environment. 

Emali is a semi-arid area with frequent and severe droughts. ChildFund will continue to work with communities here on climate-aligned water projects to improve access to water in arid and semi-arid areas including by installing solar-powered water kiosks.

Previous: Next: