The cultural practice where men while away the time sitting under trees, leaving the burden of providing for the family to women, has led to increased malnutrition in West Pokot.
The practice leaves women burdened with domestic and other chores, so they have little time to look for food.
The county has the highest malnutrition rate in the country, with a stunting rate of 45.9 percent, compared with the national figure of 35 per cent, according to the Demographic Health Report 2014.
Ministry of Health statistics indicate that Kapenguria District Hospital, the region's main referral facility, receives 70 to 100 malnourished children every month.
County Nutrition Officer Jane Limang’ura said households should strive to have enough food to reduce malnutrition.
“Mothers sell milk and give their children black tea,” she noted. “They should buy nutritious food because they do not feed their children the way they should.
Ms Limang’ura encouraged mothers to set up income-generating activities so that they can get money to buy food.
“We urge mothers to prioritise nutrition in their homes," she said and appealed to mothers to feed their children properly for the first 100 days.
But she noted that the government has instituted measures to mitigate the situation.
“We have a mother-to-mother support programme, where we have more than 100 support groups, baby-friendly initiatives, screening and referrals, and integrated outreaches,” she said.
ACCESS TO HEALTH FACILITIES
The noted that poor access to health facilities, coupled with low demand, also contributes to the increase in malnutrition.
“The uptake is very low because negative cultural values prevent the community from seeking medical services. They lack information hence perform rituals,” she said.
“They should stop giving their children traditional herbs and not wait for a long time before taking them to hospital,” she said.
“We have high numbers in hospital during the dry season,” she said.
She called on mothers to refer all malnutrition cases to health centres and to take their children for monitoring.
Meanwhile, Word Vision Programme Manager Titus Kaprom called on the county government to support nutrition programmes in the area.
“We need concerted efforts to reduce malnutrition,” he said.
Mr Kaproom asked the government to allocate special funds for nutrition in the next financial year to help mitigate malnutrition among pastoral communities
Speaking to the Nation, women from Alale in North Pokot Sub-county confirmed they are their families' breadwinners.
They revealed that they have embraced family planning so that they can have the number of children they can feed because "the men don't care about their children".
“It is hard to feed many children and mothers should embrace family planning. Mothers also don’t observe cleanliness and give leftover foods to their children,” said Ms Jane Cheptoo.
Another mother, Ms Saumu Abraman, said mothers in the area are forced to go and dig for gold and look for money so that they can feed their children.