The Nutritional Improvements through Cash and Health Education (NICHE) Program was initially set up as a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-led initiative funded under European Union (EU) Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience (SHARE),

implemented in partnership with the County Government of Kitui and the National Government. It was later expanded to include neighbouring Machakos county, initially to three sub-counties bordering Kitui — Yatta, Masinga and Mwala — and then to the rest of the county following a second baseline survey. Kitui was initially selected due to its very high levels of stunting 45.8% compared to the National average of 26%.

The Nutrition Improvement through Cash and Health Education (NICHE) Programme is designed to improve the nutritional status of children in the first 1,000 days of life. The programme provides a top-up of KES 500 per target child under 24 months and/or pregnant woman, capped at Kshs 1,000 per household per month. The top-up is to be aligned to the SAU and HSNP payment delivery mechanisms. Targeted households will also receive nutrition counselling from Community Health Volunteers (CHVs). Through household visits, CHVs will deliver specific nutrition messages to encourage the adoption of optimal health and nutrition practices related to the care of young children and pregnant women. The programme will also pilot specific child protection interventions in Kilifi County, further to which considerations will be made to expand the integration of Child Protection within NICHE to the other 4 counties.

The results from an earlier pilot demonstrated a positive improvement in the health and well-being of children under 24 months, pregnant women and caregivers – despite the relatively short time span of implementation. These gains included: improvements in the rates of exclusive breastfeeding; an enhancement in the quality of diet; greater use of handwashing, water treatment and improved sanitation facilities; and a reduction in the incidence of illness.

It is on the basis of such results that the Government of Kenya jointly with development partners have expanded coverage of the intervention to four additional counties (West Pokot, Turkana, Marsabit, and Kilifi). The four additional counties were selected on account of their level of deprivation related to overall child poverty, chronic malnutrition (stunting and wasting), low food security, county-level capacities, and the prevailing challenges in the delivery of healthcare, nutrition and WASH-related services.

The NICHE Up-Scale is implemented by the Government of Kenya’s (GoK) through the State Department of Social Protection and the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, with the involvement of NDMA and the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. UNICEF provides Technical Assistance either directly or through contracted Implementing Partners and Technical Service Providers.

The overall goal of the NICHE programme is to ensure that the most vulnerable children in intervention areas of selected counties, show improved well-being in the areas of nutrition, social protection and child protection. The programme aims to reach 23,500 households with nutrition-sensitive cash transfers as a means to improve well-being in nutrition, child protection and social protection.

Specifically, the NICHE programme aims to contribute to;

  • Functional NICHE coordination systems in place at National and County levels
  • The establishment of a NICHE registration system embedded in the National Safety Net Program
  • Strengthened Community Health Strategy in the five NICHE counties, to deliver High Impact Nutrition Interventions for Cash Beneficiaries
  • Households receiving cash transfers and nutrition counselling demonstrate the improved nutritional status of Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW) and children under two years
  • Households receiving cash transfers and parental skills development in Kilifi demonstrate improved protection of children in Kilifi County.
  • Functional NICHE monitoring and quality assurance systems in place at national and county levels