Child nutrition

Informing feeding policies and programmes to reduce mortality and improve health in Kenya

According to WHO, breastfeeding is one of the best ways to ensure infant health and survival. It estimates that more than 820,000 lives could be saved annually among the under-fives, if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.

The WHO suggests that breastfeeding not only enhances child health – it also improves IQ, school attendance and is associated with higher income in adult life.

Working closely with the African Population and Health Research Centre and a range of African partners, we are helping to improve child nutrition and the development of feeding policies and programmes in Kenya where breastfeeding is not common practice. The impact of the work is starting to extend to other countries – reducing child mortality and enhancing lifelong health worldwide.

Our impact

Increase in exclusive breastfeeding across Kenya

  • Rural areas – from 43% to 87%
  • Urban areas – from 2% to 50%

Adapted BFCI programme now covers

  • 30 out of 47 counties
  • 4.75M children

Social return on investment

  • £0.82 invested yields £58.40 value of social return for the community

The research

In rural and deprived urban communities in Kenya, exclusive breastfeeding is not the norm. Our research identified barriers to it – spanning a range of social and cultural values and customs.

We also identified key areas for intervention to inform community-based nutrition programmes to help overcome these obstacles and encourage breastfeeding.

We then worked closely with the Kenyan government to trial an intervention – the introduction of an adapted version of the Baby Friendly Community Initiative in rural Koibatek County. This programme has had a positive and significant impact on the number of mothers breastfeeding.

A variety of community engagement activities – to share the project’s findings and encourage breastfeeding elsewhere – were used across Kenya. Meanwhile, dissemination beyond Kenya has included meetings with the Ministries of Health in Malawi and Peru, alongside the inclusion of our work at an expert parenting interventions consultation meeting organised by UNICEF and The Lego Foundation.

Research funders

  • Medical Research Council
  • IFPRI
  • NIH / USAID
  • Wellcome Trust

Development partners

  • AFIDEP, Malawi
  • African Population and Health Research Centre - Dr Elizabeth Kimani-Murage
  • Kenyatta University
  • Ministry of Health Kenya
  • UNICEF, Kenya

Meet the experts