Improving the health and nutrition of children in Kilifi County

World Vision's health and nutrition interventions are improving the well-being of children in Kilifi County, Kenya.©World Vision Photo/Sarah Ooko.
World Vision's health and nutrition interventions are improving the well-being of children in Kilifi County, Kenya.©World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Friday, June 30, 2023

By Peter Mwaura, Communications Specialist, World Vision Kenya

One-year-old Kelvin, full of energy, plays with his siblings as his mother watches. The baby, who brings a lot joy to the family, rarely falls sicks and has attained all recommended development milestones for his age.

Her mother, Zainabu, attributes this success to the knowledge on good health and nutrition practices, which she received through the support of World Vision’s Nutrition Improvement Through Cash Transfer and Health Education (NICHE) project. It is funded by UNICEF through the World Bank in Kilifi, Turkana and Kitui counties, based in Kenya.

Nutrition has become one of the key players in high rates of stunting reported in Kilifi County in Kenya. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Nutrition projects implemented by World Vision in Kilifi are helping address stunting rates in the region. ©World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


"I am grateful for the training I received. There is a big difference between Kelvin and his older siblings. It has been easier to raise him and he looks healthier and happier. He is also more active and begun walking much faster than my other children,” she says.

Through Community Health Promoters empowered by the NICHE project, Zinabu notes that she was privileged to learn about the importance of giving birth in hospital, as opposed to having home deliveries that are guided by unskilled individuals.

“This is the first step in ensuring that the child is healthy. If you deliver at home and develop complications, the baby can easily die. But in hospitals, there are experts that can save the child,” she says.

Kevin and his sister Husna outside their home ready to play after Kevin has just been fed by their mother. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Kelvin and his sister Husna, outside their house. They are both healthy, thanks to the knowledge on good nutrition that their mother received through the support of World Vision. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


Unlike the past when she would give her children all manner of foods shortly after delivery, Zainabu now understands that it is paramount for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their newborns for the first six months of their lives.

This is a practice that is highly recommended by the World Health Organisation as well as the Ministry of Health in Kenya, since it gives children a healthy start to life.

Breast milk is considered the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies, which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.

It also contains sufficient nutrients required for the effective development of children during the first six months.

Cases of home delivering by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) have reduced in Kilifi after the NICHE program was rolled out. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life gives children a healthy start to life. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


After the six months are over, parents can begin introducing the child to healthy food varieties, while still continuing to breastfeed them until they reach two years.

“I delivered my other children at home because of cultural beliefs. I used to rely on the advice of Traditional Birth Assistants who would sometimes warn me not to breastfeed my child. But now I know that exclusive breastfeeding is important for children,” she says.

Through cash transfers targeting households with children below the age of two years as well as pregnant mothers under the NICHE project, Zainabu among other women in the community were able to establish kitchen gardens and grow food crops that enable them to have a ready supply of nutritious foods for their children.

“I learnt many things I didn’t know before, like the right diet for a child. I learnt that a child needs five food groups. I started farming vegetables and keeping chicken to cater for the dietary diversity of my children. This has also improved my income as I sell surplus vegetables and eggs.”

Through minimum savings on the cash top-up received from the NICHE program, Kevin’s mother has adopted small scale farming which serves as a supplement to Kevin’s nutritional needs. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Kitchen gardens are helping women to practice climate-smart agriculture and produce nutritious food crops for their children and families in Kilifi County, Kenya. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


According to the Ministry of Health, Kilifi County has the highest number of stunted children in Kenya, with one in every three children affected. This is an indication of severe malnutrition.

Breastfeeding among other nutrition interventions being implemented under the  project, is helping to address this challenge.

Valery, a World Vision Nutrition specialist notes that the organisation trained Community Health Promoters and through household visits, they usually deliver specific nutrition messages to encourage the adoption of optimal health and nutrition practices related to the care of young children and pregnant women in the community.

“There is a positive improvement in the health and well-being of children under two years, as well as pregnant women and caregivers, despite the relatively short time span of the project,” she says.

The program aimed at training more Community Health Volunteers on nutritional requirements for young children as a way of easily reaching out to the community members in the locality. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
The NICHE project implemented by World Vision has empowered Community Health Promoters on good health and nutrition practices. They are now cascading the knowledge to communities in Kilifi County, Kenya. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


Aside from good nutrition, Zainabu also adheres to good hygiene and sanitation practices as they go a long way in enhancing the health status of children as well as the entire family.

“Before feeding the child, I have to wash my hands with soap and water and also ensure that the utensils used are clean,” she says, while preparing to give Kelvin a nutritious meal comprising of fresh farm vegetables and eggs.

Felistar, one of the Community Health Promoters  trained by the project notes that she initially got resistance in the community but she was able to eventually change their mindsets.

One major milestone achieved  was the involvement of men in the the health and well-being of their children and families.

Positive parenting involves showing love, warmth and kindness towards young children to ensure they are well guided and taken care of. Men have also been actively involved in ensuring that the children get all the nutritional needs they require. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Men in Kilifi County regularly attend parenting skills sessions, supported by World Vision, which have made them understand the significance of men involvement in the upbringing of children. ©World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


“It was not easy to change the mindset of this community because of the cultural beliefs that had been holding them back for a long time. Most men in this community did not actively take part in raising children and ensuring that their nutrition is well taken care of. But through continued engagement with the community members, we were able to change the mindset of men and now they regularly attend our training sessions on effective parenting ,” says Felistar.

Kelvin’s father, Kahindi, notes that after attending one of the meetings, he realised how important it is for him to provide a conducive environment for the growth of his children by practising positive parenting.

“In the meeting, I learnt that the health of my son was an integral part of his development in the early life stages. It was after this meeting that I got to engage other men and teach them the same things that I was learning,” he notes.

Nutrition forms a critical part in early childhood development, where if not well taken care of, stunting can result to lower cognitive abilities among children below two years. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura
Kahindi's children are happy and full of joy. He is among the many men, empowered by World Vision's NICHE project, who  have made strides in playing an active role towards enhancing the well-being of their children. © World Vision Photo/Peter Mwaura.


Through capacity building, Kahindi’s mindset was transformed. By saving the money he gets from casual jobs, he supports his wife to run their thriving poultry business and kitchen garden.

Kahindi’s acceptance and participation in meetings set the stage for more men to join meetings and cascade the lessons to their families. This has improved marriages, reduced cases of child violence and improved the overall well-being of children.