Susan is the proud mother of healthy twins, Moses and Abigael. Two months ago, when Susan gave birth the twins, she was worried she wouldn’t have enough milk to breastfeed. With support from the IRC she began attending nutrition sessions as part of a wider mothers group. As well as a support network this group gave Susan the knowledge of how to best care for her twins including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and breastfeeding on demand to help ensure milk production. In addition, she learned proper positioning and attachment. Today, Susan’s children are healthy and on track to reach their goal weight.
Susan belongs to a community of displaced people who fled the post election violence of 2007/2008 to Turkana in northern Kenya. Here, a group of 20 mothers and pregnant women meet weekly to support each other and their community, by addressing issues of malnutrition related to maternal, infant and young child feeding practices. They discuss and share their experiences, knowledge, challenges and ways to improve the nutrition of mothers and children within their families and their communities.
Susan’s group is among the 49 support groups formed in the region that aim to to help improve maternal and child nutrition. Each group has a mentor mother, who the IRC team trains on nutrition and health information, to be role models in their community. Pauline, the mentor mother of Susan’s group, explains the changes that she has seen since the Mothers Support Group began: “We used to lose many children as a result of mixed feeding and not practicing exclusive breastfeeding. Many children would be malnourished and admitted in nutrition programmes while others would die from diarrhoea and vomiting. After learning best infant feeding practices in our support groups, we are now happy that our children are happy and healthy and we no longer have to frequent hospitals.” Susan has made it her mission to show families how to keep their children healthy. Young Moses and Abigael’s speedy growth is a testament to her success and the impact of community support.
The IRC in Kenya joined other organisations and the Ministry of Health in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday 1 August to launch World Breastfeeding Week. This week aims to promote the positive health benefits of breastfeeding around the globe. “It is extremely important that we continue to encourage mothers throughout the country to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of their lives,” explains Dr Milhia Kadia, IRC’s Health Programme Quality Coordinator in Kenya. “The health benefits are many. Breast milk builds the child’s immune system from diseases and also protects the child from future diseases,” she continues.
The IRC in Kenya has been supporting mothers groups as part of a consortium of four organisations called ENSuRRe – Enhancing Nutrition Surveillance, Response and Resilience – funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). These groups aim to address malnutrition in Kenya, working closely with the Ministry of Health.