Tag Archives: Kenya

An Optimistic View of Breastfeeding in Ethiopia

Throughout my travels to health facilities in Ethiopia last week with Save the Children I was heartened to see so many positive messages about breastfeeding on posters and printed materials for mothers to take home.  I also saw several mothers breastfeeding their babies everywhere we went.

In Ethiopia 52% of babies are put to the breast within one hour of being born and 52% of babies are exclusively breastfed through six months according to Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers 2012 report. While that number can definitely be improved Ethiopia has been given a “good” rating by Save the Children along with countries such as Rwanda and Eritrea that have percentages for the aforementioned breastfeeding indicators around the 70% range. Only four countries have been given “very good” ratings and they are Malawi, Madagascar, Peru and the Solomon Islands.

Mothers at Health Center, Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, only 51% of  babies are breastfed with complementary foods from 6-9 months, but from 20 – 23 months 82% of all toddlers are still being breastfed. Ethiopia was also given a “good” rating for policy support of the WHO code (International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes).

What I did not like seeing at a government-run hospital’s maternity ward was a promotion for Pfizer Nutrition infant formula. That means a pharmaceutical rep came into the maternity ward and influenced health workers to advise mothers to use infant formula. With a child mortality rate that is not on track to reach Millennium Development Goal 4 in 2015, promoting anything other than exclusive breastfeeding is detrimental to the overall health of Ethiopia’s children. In fact, in Africa babies who are breastfed are six times more likely to survive the first few months of life than non-breastfed babies, according to State of the World’s Mothers 2012.

Formula Marketing in Bishoftu Hospital

Ethiopia should take a page out of Kenya‘s book and enact a new law regarding advertising of  infant formula in health settings. Kenya’s new law now forbids kickbacks from pharmaceutical reps to health workers.

Photos: Jennifer James

Exclusive Breastfeeding Increases in Kenya

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is what will keep her the most healthy. There is good news out of Kenya. Exclusive breastfeeding has increased to 32% from a mere 13% in 2003. Exclusive breastfeeding helps keep babies healthy and it also provides a buffer for mother to child HIV transmission by four times.

In September Kenya passed a new law regarding advertising infant formula particularly in health settings. Health workers are also no longer allowed to receive kickbacks in any form from formula companies. This is very important because of the influence health workers have on their patients. The new law regarding health workers includes forbids the following.

A health worker or a proprietor shall not:

a) accept from a manufacturer or a distributor of a designated or complementary food product –

(i) a gift;

(ii) financial assistance;

(iii) fellowship, scholarship, research grant, study tour, funding for meetings and conferences, seminars or continuing education courses; or

(iv) sample of a designated or complementary food product;

(b) distribute or display a designated or complementary food product; or

(c) demonstrate the use of a designated or complementary food product to mothers or members of their families unless in such special cases of need as may be determined by the Cabinet Secretary or his representative, in writing.

The new law also requires formula packaging to include appropriate risks of using formula. We cannot forget that having access to clean water is also an issue in Kenya, so using formula for a baby can potentially be life threatening.

According to WHO data the northeastern part of Kenya sees the largest percentage of exclusive breastfeeding through six months. The coastal part of Kenya logs the smallest percentage of exclusive breastfeeding.

In addition to increased exclusive breastfeeding, Kenya is also seeing an increase in babies breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery. According to World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative in Kenya (2012) KDHS shows an improvement on the percentage of babies’ breastfed within one hour of birth from 52.3% (2003) to 58.1% (2008/09). However, this indicator has stagnated between 52% and 58% since 1993 with 2003 registering the lowest prevalence.

To learn more about Kenya’s exclusive breastfeeding increase visit www.irinnews.org.

Photo: United Nations/ Photo by Albert González Farran

10 Global Development Stories to be Thankful For

Typically when we think of global development we focus on everything that is wrong because the challenges are so great. Rarely are the successes celebrated because with every move towards a goal there is still so much to do.

Today we are featuring those stories that have been more about success than failure; more about moving forward than moving backward even if the net result only makes a small dent in the overall scheme of things.

    1. Female Genital Mutilation Banned Under New Somalian Constitution
    2. Path’s Sure Start Program Ensures the Reduction of Maternal Mortality
    3. Living, Thriving with HIV/AIDS: A Mother’s Story
    4. A Return to Normalcy: Mogadishu’s Lido Beach Lively Again
    5. Somalia’s Concerted Move Toward Gender Equality
    6. Men March Against Child Marriage in Liberia
    7. A Promising Trend for Data,Transparency
    8. New Fishing, Agricultural Development Project in Haiti
    9. Quick Impact Project Provides Education for Darfur Children
    10. Powering the Country With Wind Energy

What global development stories are you thankful for?

Photo: Jennifer James, Kenya

Sunday’s Global News and Development Must-Reads

As you gear up for another week here are a few must-reads about global news and development I recommend.

  • African women won’t wield political influence without cultural change: This article from today’s Guardian highlights the quota system put in place in many African countries that require a certain percentage of female representation in government. Read more to see whether these quotas work or are largely just for show.
  • Adult and Youth Literacy Projections: Yesterday was International Literacy Day. UNESCO reports Brazil, China, Indonesia, Iran and Mexico are expected to reach near-universal youth #literacy by 2015!
  • [Watch] Chisomo’s Story. You may have heard about Save the Children’s and the Ad Council’s new campaign Every Beat Matters. It is a global initiative that seeks to provide basic health care for children around the world and shine a light on the health workers that work tirelessly to keep them alive. Watch Chismo’s story about the work he does as the sole health worker in a village of 2216 people.
  • Slum surveys giving ‘invisible’ inhabitants a say in urban planning: Living in urban slums poses difficult for its residents not only because of squalid living conditions and rife poverty. Residents also need to contend with government ordered evictions where one moment people have makeshift homes and the next they are completely razed. Read more about how slum dwellers are becoming more empowered
  • [Photo] The photo above caught my eye. It was taken after hurricane Issac hit Haiti.
    Haitians Receive Government Food Aid in Aftermath Tropical Storm Isaac
    A young girl waits in line for food aid being distributed by the Haitian government in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac. The storm-swept through Haiti on 25 August with high winds and heavy rains, flooding low-lying areas of the capital Port-au-Prince and the south and seriously damaging camps for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. 26 August 2012 | Port-au-Prince, Haiti | UN Photo/Logan Abassi

[Book Review] The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of ChangeThe Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change by Roger Thurow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One does not have to be a wonk to understand the intricacies of global hunger as many might suspect. Roger Thurow, a senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former Wall Street Journal correspondent, proved in The Last Hunger Season that chronic, perpetual, and essentially senseless hunger in Kenya can easily be understood by anyone who reads this book. This less academic approach to analysing hunger helps put this worldwide problem on the agenda not only for those who work in the field of hunger relief, but also for those who care about people who do not have enough food to eat.

Roger Thurow
Roger Thurow (Photo credit: ONE Fr)

Thurow follows the lives of four smallholder women farmers in Kenya and writes in clear detail about the struggles these women and their families endure during the annual “wanjala” or hunger season. Each year these farmers must grow enough food to sell and consume and also navigate the volatile food markets during the recent economic crises where food prices have been high, but selling prices have been lower than usual. What you will find in The Last Hunger Season is despite these women’s hard work and dedication to their small farm plots economic, food and health struggles perpetually stand at their doorstep, and yet their hope, while wavering at times, is never broken.

One of the underlying themes in The Last Hunger Season is the dedication these women have for the future; that despite their current circumstances they forge every way possible for a better future not only for themselves, but for their children. These women understand that the only way out of the subsistence, smallholder farmer cycle of poverty is through education. By making sacrifices (even going without food and relying on black tea for meals) it ensures that at least one child in the family can work a job in an urban setting and lift the entire family out of poverty. It is, at times, difficult to read that some of the women would pay school fees instead of feeding their families even when their younger children are failing to thrive from malnutrition. However, the future to these women is brighter than filling their bellies and the bellies of their children.

It is important to note that the One Acre Fund, an NGO that helps small subsistence farmers yield larger crops through better seeds, fertilizers, education and working in cooperatives, is featured throughout the book. It is through the One Acre Fund that these women farmers are able to provide a better living for their families by producing more maize largely, but also growing other crops like beans. Larger crops means more food to sale at market prices and it also means more food to eat.

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change is a optimal starting point for students and hunger advocates – both professional and lay – to better understand the hunger season in Africa and throughout the world and the importance of better agricultural techniques to a brighter and more productive future for these subsistence farmers.
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