This week the African Executive interacted with Rose Tume Abduba, a 28 year old Kenyan national working with United Nations International Education Fund (UNICEF) Kenya as a Field Monitor for Micro Nutrition Deficiency Control Program. Rose shares some of her experiences as a Field Monitor.
Q. Briefly describe UNICEF
A. UNICEF is a United Nations body that looks after the interests of children in improving health, education and general protection. It has been in existence for over 50 years and has strived to improve the living conditions of children in the world especially during emergency. It has been on the forefront to give assistance to mothers and their children during natural disasters and war among others. UNICEF’s offices are situated in Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya.
Q. Tell us more about the Nutrition Program
A. It is one of the core programs of UNICEF. The main projects under this program are Micronutrient Deficiency Control Program, Integration of Early Childhood Development Program and Emergency Nutrition Program. I fall under Micro Nutrition Development Control Program specifically Vitamin A supplementation.
Q. What are your objectives?
A. The objectives of the program is to reduce Vitamin A deficiency among children under five years in Kenya as they are more prone to illness. Since vitamin A is known to improve immunity, it has been emphasized. The program has merely supplemented what the children take. In the long run we strive to reduce morbidity and mortality rates.
Q. Other than Nairobi where else are you based?
A. We have a sub-office in Garissa. Garissa is one of UNICEF’s learning districts. We work with our partners through telephone, email and field visits.
Q. How do you go about your work?
A. UNICEF supports Ministry of Health by giving financial and technical support to the staff. The program covers the entire nation and several other nations in Africa. We emphasize the Bottom–Up Approach and so the Ministry of Health drafts a proposal to UNICEF which we fund. We also give stationery in kind to facilitate the supplementation program.
I am assigned several districts: Four in Rift valley province, Nairobi province, the whole of Central province and six districts in Eastern province.
I do constant monitoring to ensure that the guidelines on supplementation are adhered to and that funds are distributed accordingly. I look into accurate collection and recording of data.
Q. So far what observations have you made?
A. The contrast is clear. The healthier looking children are found in productive areas while infant mortality is high in the low productive areas like Tharaka in Meru District. Some children demand especially the two year old and above demand for the capsules which they call sweets while those below, will cry, throw tantrums and split the capsule.
Mothers observe that those who got the supplement fall ill less often than those who do not. Children are innocent and we must strive to provide what is best.
Q. What is the future of the children?
A. Their future is dependent on many factors. The kind of nurture they get from the parents, access to quality education and improved health systems.
Q. What challenges do you face?
A. Delay of funds from donors, lack of sustainability of the program and even delay of submission of financial returns from partners who believe that young women like us are not in a position to offer technical support to partners who are much older.
Q. What advice would you then give?
A. Give the young a chance. They too have knowledge and can offer support. Partners must gradually take on their roles for the sake of sustainability.
Q. How is a working day for you?
A. I wake up at 6.20am, get to the office by 8.15am, complete any pending work from the previous day and carry out other assigned tasks. Occasionally I attend section meetings. I travel to the field at least two weeks every month to monitor the progress of the activities. I leave work at 5pm and go to the Recreational centre within the complex and work out for one hour, four times a week then get home at 7.00p.m. I make sure I watch news and retire to bed at 9.40 pm after dinner.
Q. What’s your personal ambition?
A. To be a public Health expert. My ambition is to see a Kenya where citizens can prevent diseases rather than seek treatment. Health care service provision is too expensive for many Kenyans. Thus, if they can prevent these diseases, they can use the money saved to carry out other development activities.
Q. What’s the future of Kenya and Africa in general?
A. Kenya’s political system has drastically improved. People are more aware of their rights than before. However, poverty levels are still high. For Africa and Kenya to reach the threshold of development, literacy levels have to rise, practicable goals set and social systems improved.