A Matter of Health: MOHI’s Child Survival Mandate
One of MOHI’s core mandate is to RESTORE wellness by providing holistic health services that both prevent and cure diseases.
To achieve this, MOHI has clinics in four centers that provide curative care to our students, staff, the families we serve and others from the community. For preventive care, MOHI’s Child Survival team steps in by addressing the health needs of expectant and nursing mothers, children under five, and all kindergarten students. The team also teaches grade five and up students on adolescent health.
Led by Irene Mathenge - the team engages the community not only to offer them accurate information but also to offer tangible help.
“We debunk many myths that often hold back our people from making the right decisions as pertains to their health,” Irene says. “We also educate them so that they make informed choices based on facts.”
For expectant mothers, the team follows up on the progress of those who come to the clinic for check-ups. They also carry out home visits to ensure that the mothers are following the advice given.
According to Flora Makena, the Child Survival officer, dealing with mothers who do not believe in-hospital birth or care is not easy.
“When we visit the community, we ask the expectant mothers to show us their mother and child handbook.
This booklet is handed out by hospitals during antenatal visits and it is what they use to monitor a mother’s progress. When we find an expectant mother who does not have this book, then we know they have not been going for the antenatal checkups,” she says.
In such a case, Makena says intervention measures are taken to educate them on the benefit of antenatal care, hospital birth and postnatal care. The mother is also encouraged to use iron and folic supplements.
“The myths that exist and that keep some women away from the hospital are numerous and diverse. Sadly, many of these expectant mothers take them to be the gospel truth,” she says.
“We thank God that over time as we meet and educate the mothers, most of them opt for what is best for them and their unborn child. When this happens, we help them come up with a birth plan and then refer them to the nearest health centers.”
Once these mothers give birth, the team then supports them through the lactating and postnatal period. They teach them good breastfeeding habits as well as proper nutrition for themselves and their child. The mothers are also encouraged to keep going to the clinic for checkups where their recovery is monitored.
“Parental responsibility is also something we teach them,” Makena says. “In the communities we serve, many of these mothers are very young and often ill-equipped to raise a child. They also may not have good role models to follow so we step in to bridge this gap.”
For the children under five, the team’s main focus is to educate the parents on common childhood diseases and also ensure that the immunization schedule is up-to-date.
Irene says there is a lot of ignorance around the issue especially in the rural communities outside Nairobi. This keeps children from receiving much-needed immunizations, which would protect them from preventable diseases.
Once MOHI enrolls new children in preschool and kindergarten, Irene and her team step in to carry out nutritional assessments on the new recruits. From these assessments, they can determine which children are suffering from acute malnutrition, they also identify the children that need multi-vitamins and deworming, among other interventions.
According to Raelyn Nicholson, who is in charge of the Health Mission's quality assurance, proper nutrition is essential. "Healthy growth and development depends on good nutrition. Poor nutrition contributes to poor immunity which predisposes children to diseases. To mitigate this cycle, we offer Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to those students diagnosed with severe malnutrition,” she says.
RUTF is an energy-dense, mineral and vitamin-enriched food that requires no preparation. And according to Raelyn, once a child is put on these special supplements, there is a noticeable difference within one month.
Nutritionist Maureen Kendi also leads the team in training preschool and kindergarten teachers on nutrition concepts, performing growth monitoring and managing malnutrition.
In so doing, the teachers are empowered to identify levels of malnutrition among their learners. This also enables the Child Survival team to care for preschoolers and kindergarteners in all of MOHI's schools.
On matters of adolescent health, the team addresses diverse issues across a population of children who have often been exposed to sex at an early age. Within the communities we serve, teen pregnancies are more the norm than the exception and there is a lot of misinformation.
“When we hold talks with these adolescents, we realize that many of them are ignorant about reproductive health,” Makena says. “We also find that there is a lot of misinformation that needs to be corrected and a lot of proper teaching needed to replace the lies”.
During these interactive forums, some of the topics that the team cover include: menstrual hygiene, understanding puberty, preventing teen pregnancies, human sexual behavior including sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. There is also a discussion on the Biblical view of sex and the effects of engaging in it at an early age.
The sessions also include a Q&A forum where the young people get to ask questions anonymously. It is these questions that enable the team to know what topics need to be focused on and to also gauge the level of awareness among the participants.
When it comes to the work done by the Child Survival team, the numbers do not lie: Over 5,500 preschool and kindergarten students assessed, 113 teachers from 22 centers trained, 2,900 adolescents taught, 109 holistic home visits made to follow up on expectant and nursing mums, 95 health classes given and 83 referrals made for maternal health and sick children.
We are truly grateful to God for the work done by this team towards restoring health. We give glory to God for the ministry opportunity this has availed us and we look forward to having even more partners come on board so we can provide even better care to the students and the communities we serve.
We do invite you to partner with us in this endeavor! Consider sponsoring a child or two so that more children and families can have access to this very vital care. Together we can bring transformation to these lives!