by David Karani
At least 70 HIV/Aids Exposed Infants (HEI) who had been put on treatment and their mothers and guardians on a mentorship program, in Kwale County have graduated with most of them being declared free from the virus.
The mentorship program, established in 2016 to stem the tide of pregnant HIV-positive women by getting them on treatment to Prevent Mother-To-Child Transmission of the virus (PMTCT), has twenty-Four (24) mothers aged between 35 and below recruited so far.
The program which is championed by the office of the Kwale County First Lady, Christine Mvurya together with the Base titanium has been focusing on ensuring the vulnerable children receive a good nutrition and medication.
The First Lady presided over the graduation ceremony at the Kinango Methodist church in Kwale county.
The National AIDS Control Council 2018 report shows that 4.8 percent of Kenyans are HIV positive. This translates to about 1.34 million Kenyans who are living with HIV. Kwale was not been spared by this scourge.
Mrs Mvurya through her Fanikisha Foundation which aims at combating teenage pregnancies embarked on an ambitious program aimed at mentoring mothers who were HIV/Aids positive to stem the tide of pregnant HIV-positive women by getting them on treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus (PMTCT).
Since 2016, more than 800 HIV exposed infants have turned out to be HIV negative. Besides, the PMTCT program, the county has also championed the involvement of men and support groups for discordant couples.
This renewed hope which has seen more children reach their 5th birthday has been channelled to Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) as a basic foundation needed for children to grow and realise their full potential in life.
Kwale County has established ECDE child friendly schools since 2013 resulting into growth of enrolment from 55,000 to 80,000 children in 2019. The public ECDE centres have increased to 850 of which 437 have met some threshold level of child friendliness with at least two classrooms, teachers’ staff room, Art & play equipment, water harvesting systems (gutters/10,000 litre water tank), kitchen and toilet block.
Equally, the county education budget now stands at Shs1.4B with ECDE getting the lion’s share at Shs469.8M.
This decision is based on studies which have found that children’s participation in ECDE helps to improve long-term cognitive and socioeconomic skills, improving labour market outcomes. Participation also builds confidence in openness, grit, patience, and workplace skill use.
The department of education in Kwale county has taken the initiative to accommodate its 765 teachers on a pensionable basis in order sustain early learners in schools and recruited 20 ECDE officers (one for each ward) who employ quality assurance standards in the schools.
“Studies carried out by reputable organizations like TheirWorld who are experts in ECDE show that society thrives when we put the needs of our children first. Investing in ECDE benefits everyone, especially when we care for children affected by HIV/AIDs,” said Ms. Mvurya.
The First Lady also noted that parents need to guide their children and youth to make right choices to avoid early pregnancies which contribute to the increase in the number of people who get infected.
She said the county had also received the latest cancer screening equipment for cervical as well as prostate cancer among other diseases and urged residents to take advantage of the new equipment.