Nurses strike worsens child malnutrition crisis in 6 counties - Unicef

Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) general secretary Seth Panyako. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) general secretary Seth Panyako. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The ongoing nurses’ strike has worsened the situation of malnourished children in six drought-affected counties, the United Nations has said.

UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) says the nurses’ strike continues to hamper nutrition response, with 50 per cent to 80 per cent of health facilities being non-operational in the food-insecure counties.

Nurses run nutrition feeding programme especially in counties with the highest acute malnutrition levels as they record incidences, give prescription foods and follow up on malnourished children.

“Response is underway to the deteriorating nutrition situation in other countries and while the situation in northern and central Somalia remains of concern the nurses’ strike in Kenya continues to impact the response,” Unicef said in a report.

Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Tana River and Kilifi counties lead with the highest number of malnutrition cases.

Up to when the nurses’ downed their tools in protest seeking salary increment and better working conditions last June, 47,986 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 91,319 children with moderately acute malnutrition had been registered for the treatment and feeding programme.

Broken system

The Kenya National Union of Nurses general-secretary Seth Panyako said: “Without nurses in health facilities the system is broken and nothing can be done about this thing (malnutrition) but no one seems to care.”

Mr Panyako added: “After a child has been examined and diagnosed by a doctor, the nutritionist then prescribes what is to be given in case of malnourishment and it is the nurses who give the prescription and follow up cases up to the home level.”

Mr Panyako was speaking to the Business Daily through a telephone interview.

He said immunisation and deworming has also been largely affected as the administering of vaccines to children is done during the hospital visits.

Unicef had earlier reported a significant increase in SAM cases in the country from January to May compared to 2015/2016, with a significant decline in admissions in June and July when the nurses’ strike began.

“Unicef attributes the June/July decrease to under-reporting of SAM admissions due to a nationwide nurses’ strike that began in early June.

In the arid and semi-arid lands, for example, health centre reporting rates declined from an average of 92 per cent to just 42 per cent as of July,” read the report.