Project to tame malnutrition through mobile phones

Kenya is among Sub Saharan African countries set to benefit from a mobile phone project that will allow users access to nutritional and health information in a bid to tackle malnutrition at a time when statistics show nutritional issues have hit Kenya the hardest with 35 percent of children under five years being stunted.

Dubbed mNutrition, the initiative is targeting 3 million people in Sub Saharan Africa and Asia. Through a consortium led by CABI, a not-for-profit inter-governmental organization, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Oxfam GB and funded by UK Department For International Development (DFID), the project will work in each country together with partners such as content providers, extension service providers, governments, mobile operators, NGOs and private sector companies, to help deliver nutrition related information via mobile phones.

The consortium will also link mNutrition services to existing programs and on-the-ground services, for example, agricultural extension and community health services, bringing together the mobile services with face-to-face advice.

‘In Africa and Asia, the proliferation in mobile technology means we can now reach people in even the most remote locations with essential agricultural and health advice,’ says Fraser Norton, program manager at CABI. ‘Mobile services are becoming a vital link in the advisory chain, bridging an information gap that conventional public extension can’t span. Mobile technology is the future of delivering knowledge to those who need it most. We’re delighted that our consortium has been chosen to be the content provider in such an important mobile initiative.’

The group brings together world-class expertise in agriculture, health and nutrition, as well as a strong presence in the 14 target countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia including Kenya, where the project will be rolled out later in 2014.

Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to child mortality worldwide and a hugely important issue that needs tackling urgently. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that undernutrition contributes to the deaths of about 5.6 million children under the age of five each year, and that good nutrition has strong economic implications too. When populations are well nourished, higher individual productivity, lower health care costs and greater economic output will ensue.

According to the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 35% of children under age  of five years are stunted, 16% are underweight and 7% are wasted. 

Today in Kenya, an estimated 2.1 million children are stunted which is a serious national  development concern as these children will never reach their full physical and mental potential.