Skip to main content

4 January 2024 - News


Jacinta plucks 'sukuma wiki' (kales) in her kitchen garden

By Ruth Mbuthia & Dorothy Waweru

It is a beautiful day in Kajiado Town. The sun is out and children are happily playing, singing nursery rhymes.

We are in Kajiado to visit Jecinta Karanja, one of the participants in Save the Children’s Universal Child Benefit (UCB) Programme. We spot her playing with her three boys outside her house. The playing suddenly stops when they notice our presence. One of them, the youngest, rushes towards us and gives each of us a hug. Jecinta looks on smiling and tells us that the four-year-old boy loves visitors.

As we enter her home and are escorted to our seats, Jecinta informs us that it is because of the little boy that she came to know about the UCB programme.

“My son underwent surgery and lost one of his legs. It was hard keeping up with taking care of him because he was now fully dependent on me, and taking care of the rest of his siblings, as I am the sole breadwinner of my family. A friend of mine told me about the UCB programme a month after his surgery, when she saw I was struggling,” says Jecinta. “I registered at the chief's office and started receiving a monthly stipend of Sh.800; this money has really been helpful."

Because the project also offered her lessons on nutrition and which nutritious foods to feed her children, she not only improved her children's diet but also took steps towards self-sustainability.

 Jecinta tells us that through the stipend, she managed to save some money and start a small garden outside her house where she has planted kale, spinach and other green leafy vegetables. She also bought a few chickens and ducks to provide eggs for her family.

“Before the program, my assumption was that vegetables were limited to sukumawiki (kales), while fruits were considered a luxury. However, after the trainings, my eyes were opened and I realized just how important fruits are, especially to a recovering and growing child like my 4-year-old. Now I know that they help boost his immunity and protect him from infections, aiding in his healing process,” she says.

Reflecting on her journey, Jecinta acknowledges that economic factors posed challenges in providing her baby with the recommended diet. However, she emphasizes that the most significant hindrance was the lack of knowledge.

According to Ruth Mbuthia, a nutritionist working with Save the Children, the UCB program being implemented in Kajiado, Embu, and Kisumu Counties aims to cushion mothers from the socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic while also providing them with vital nutrition education.

"Apart from economic hardships, we discovered a significant knowledge gap. Many mothers lacked training on proper nutrition for their children and the importance of it, especially during the first five years of a child’s life. These years are very crucial to a child and as an organization, we aim to ensure children live beyond their fifth birthday and thrive," says Ruth.

Through programs like UCB, Save the Children aims to strengthen child-sensitive, shock-responsive social protection systems to bridge these knowledge gaps and empower mothers to provide optimal nutrition for their children, ensuring a healthier future for the next generation.