The nutrition situation in Arid and Semi-Arid lands (ASAL) of Kenya has continued to deteriorate due to the poor performance of three rain seasons (October-November-December 2020 short rains), (March-April-May 2021 long rains) and (October-November-December 2021 short rains). All three seasons were characterised by late-onset, below-average cumulative quantities and poor distribution both in time and space which has led to low /poor production of farm produce hence food insecurity, compromising the health and nutrition status of the population. With the Covid-19 pandemic evolution in Kenya from March 2020 to date, health systems have been overstretched, therefore, constraining the provision of essential health services by healthcare workers, especially during the peaks of outbreaks.
Kenya Red Cross with funding from USAID through UNICEF, continues to collaborate with the Ministry of Health at the National and County levels to build health system capacity to deliver timely and quality health and nutrition services through the Nutrition Early Action for Scalable Response in Emergencies project since 2013. To strengthen the capacity of health systems to effectively prepare for, detect and manage increased cases of acute malnutrition at the facility level, Kenya Red Cross supported the Ministry of Health in sensitizing healthcare workers in Samburu County on Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) surge Approach. IMAM surge is an approach that aims to improve the resilience of health systems to better deliver services for the treatment of acute malnutrition over time, particularly during periods of high demand without undermining the capacity and Accountability of Health actors.
“The IMAM Surge training has come at a crucial time when health facilities are overstretched due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pastoralist communities migrating due to drought episodes. The session has been designed to equip health healthcare workers with guidelines on timely decision-making and planning of human resources when responding to surges in demand. The knowledge gained will not only boost healthcare workers’ confidence but be cascaded to health facilities to fight acute malnutrition, especially during emergencies,” said Nutrition Specialist, Daniel Kimathi.
During the training, participants drawn from different health facilities are taken through technical and mentoring skills that enable them to develop a roadmap for implementation at the facility level. The implementation of IMAM Surge in Archers Post Catholic Health Centre, Samburu County has proven to be a high-impact and cost-effective timely decision-making approach for identifying seasonal factors that disrupt the treatment of malnutrition such as mass migration by pastoralists.
“Pastoralists are known for seasonal movement as a part of their cultural tradition as herders of cattle, goats, and camels. During the dry season, mass migration of caregivers and children disrupts the normal routine health check-ups and immunization schedules, especially for children under five. I am happy to have gained skills on the use of IMAM Surge toolkit which is assisting in understanding seasonal movement patterns and track defaulters,” affirms Nutritionist Everlyne Naeku Lobuk.
The Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) guides both health facilities and community-based management of acute malnutrition. Community Health Volunteers play a key role in linking malnutrition cases with health facilities for treatment. Their required support in helping health facilities fast-track acute malnutrition at the community level contributes to closing the existing gaps in tackling acute malnutrition.
“Trained Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) are now able to screen and detect malnutrition among children under five in emergencies response. Since the rollout of IMAM, they have gained good knowledge on the mobilization of caregivers, and defaulter tracing for integrated management of acute malnutrition. This has improved regular referrals, delivery of service, and timely treatment of acute malnutrition. Our main goal is to promote accurate response to surges in malnutrition in hard-to-reach areas and treat malnutrition at the community level”, said Yussuf Galmogle, Community Health Strategy focal person Laisamis Sub County, Marsabit County.
Kenya Red Cross with support from USAID and UNICEF continues to support the Ministry of Health in the rolling out of IMAM Surge Approach in hard-to-reach health facilities. So far, 30 healthcare workers in Samburu County have been equipped with the necessary skills to facilitate the setup of the IMAM surge approach at the health facility levels, and handle increased IMAM caseloads, reducing morbidity and mortality during emergencies.
By Communications Officer at the Kenya Red Cross Society, Martha Awinoh