Smart Start Siaya programme is worth emulating by other counties according to Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) Chief Executive Officer Mr. Abala Wanga. At a recently held meeting in Kisumu, Siaya County received a standing ovation for being at the forefront in championing ‘Nurturing Care’ (Nyathi en Mwandu) initiative. The County presentation was made by Education Department Officers Madam Easter Okelo representing the Education Pillar at the LREB and Mr. John Omiti in Charge of Early Childhood Development Education
The Smart Start integrated early childhood interventions in Siaya County was initiated in 2014 by H. E. Cornel Rasanga, EGH, Siaya County Governor, with support from partners. The programme has been under the patronage of H.E. Rosella Rasanga, Siaya First Lady who has managed to spearhead it to its current glorious status. Partners and sponsors like UNICEF, ChildFund, KMET, PATH, Catholic Relief Services among others have been at the center stage of building a strong foundation for children below the age of five who are at the risk of sub optimal development due to multiple risks of malnutrition, inability to access proper health care, poor home care and inadequate cognitive and social emotional stimulation.
Empirically, parents are often at crossroads on whether to buy food or play materials for their young ones as they grow up. For children to realise optimum growth, a holistic multi sectoral approach is required according to the promoters of the “Nyathi En Mwandu” initiative. Child care is not only the responsibility of the mother but society as a whole, parents are taught in this project. The model incorporates UNICEF’s extended care model which outlines proper feeding, psychosocial stimulation as being integral to child growth and development.
County Governments have the responsibility to help all children to thrive and survive. With this in mind nurturing and care should be scaled up in all LREB counties hence this Kisumu meeting recently held to sensitise representatives of the 13 other counties that form the bloc.
The Smart Start Team has recieved support from Hilton Foundation to carry out a situation analysis within the LREB counties. The program experienced in siaya outlines the health based care and home based care for children 0-3. To maximize community engagement, Siaya County has engaged the voluntary services of Community Health Volunteers. The Siaya approach disqualifies the role of mothers as the sole primary care givers of children and instead spells out the role of fathers to provide a safe, loving environment for women to thrive. As soon as a mother plans to conceive, nurturing begins. Women need support and care during pregnancy and way after. A stressed mother cannot produce enough milk for the baby according to widespread studies.
Apparently, a child’s development encompasses various spheres of our society. In order for the programme to receive traction in the Counties, the Kisumu meeting noted the need for interdeparmental approaches as a child’s wellbeing is dependant on a multidisciplinary of factors. For a child to thrive, the stakeholders present resolved that, there should be good governance, better roads, proper healthcare systems, food security, access to clean & safe water, safe environment and basic education. Government’s within the bloc would put this into consideration as discussions for the Smart Start project escalate to other counties in the bloc.