Tens of thousands of vulnerable women and children are benefitting from a much-needed Islamic Relief Kenya project.

The project to improve basic health and nutrition services in rural Kenya serves remote communities in Mandera and Wajir counties, where rates of poverty and malnutrition are high and many families are without access to even basic healthcare.

Through the ECHO-funded scheme, we provide mobile outreach focussed on services for women and children, and are increasing the capacity of local hospitals and health centres to provide quality obstetric care. In addition, our community health workers are offering vulnerable families crucial support on health and nutrition.

Nutritional support for Yusuf

Islamic Relief nutrition staff with Yusuf in the hospital.

Islamic Relief nutrition staff with Yusuf in the hospital.

Two-year old Yusuf Hanshi is amongst the children to benefit. The youngest of eleven children, his family struggles to survive on what his father earns teaching in the local madrasah (religious school).

Yusuf was referred to Rhamu hospital suffering severe acute malnutrition as well as diarrhoea, anaemia and fever. At just over eight kilogrammes, he was half the weight of a healthy toddler. For five days, Yusuf was given fortified milk and other treatment.

“I have seen a lot of improvement,” said his mother, Zeinab Ali Hussein. “When he was admitted, he was not able to eat but now he can.”

Halima, a supervisor at the hospital’s nutrition stabilisation centre – one of three supported by Islamic Relief – says that community knowledge is vital in tackling malnutrition.

“Many children are malnourished because there is not enough food to eat,” says Halima. “At the same time, from birth, babies are given water and food rather than being breastfed.”

Khadija benefits from community education

The Islamic Relief project enabled specialist staff like Khadija, 34, to work with communities to promote breastfeeding. The Ministry of Health community health worker, who works from Danaba Health Centre, has benefitted personally as a mother from the project.

A community session on breastfeeding.

A community session on breastfeeding.

“There is a big difference in the way I cared for my pregnancy and children in the past two years,” said Khadija, who has a young child of just four-months. “Anuar’s health and nutrition status is so much better than my previous three babies.

“During my pregnancy, I ensured I went to the clinic every month, ate a balanced diet and used iron tablets. I also got a lot of support from the mother to mother support group at Danaba.

“All of the complications and difficulties I experienced during pregnancy are no more. Now I know how to breastfeed in the right way.

“Now I am confident when conducting health education because I am a living testimony that the information I am giving is true. Several members of our mother to mother support group have shared the same experience. These success stories have really helped to convince the community on exclusive breastfeeding.”

Community health and nutrition education sessions teach mothers the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for infants from birth to six months, and how to successfully wean children, maintain good hygiene practices that prevent disease, and treat common childhood illnesses.

Around 45,500 children and nearly 16,700 women are benefitting from the project. Shortly, Islamic Relief – working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Health – is to deliver a further project providing micronutrient powders to under-twos.