Shoes and Nutrition: The Invisible Link February 24, 2014  by      

By: Elizabeth Masibo, CFK Health Intern, and Ben Haggai, Community Health Program Officer (currently on sabbatical)

Participants in CFK’s Daughters United program wear TOMS at a local community event.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once stated, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  On a sunny Monday in April 2013, TOMS® Shoes generously donated footwear to 400 Kiberan children, giving each of them a new pair of shoes with which to begin their journey.

TOMS is a for-profit company based in Santa Monica, California, which designs and sells shoes on what they describe as a “One for One® Model.”  When TOMS sells a pair of shoes, a pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child.  CFK partnered with TOMS in Kibera to provide a simple way for children to stay healthy and safe.

There is a definite—and often overlooked—relation between a child’s foot and his or her well-being.  So it was no coincidence that Lishe Bora Mtaani, CFK’s brand new nutrition centre, was chosen as the distribution point for the donated shoes.  The centre’s goal is to boost the health of Kiberan children who have become all too acquainted with malnutrition.  Often, nutritional deficits can actually be tied to a child’s lack of basic footwear.  Numerous Kiberan children play wearing flip-flops or no shoes at all.  Those lucky enough to own a pair of shoes have often severely worn them out. As a result, their feet are left susceptible to rusted metal, burst sewers, and parasitic worms. All of these hazards among others can lead to effects like infections, anemia, and other long-lasting health conditions.  Having sturdy footwear goes far beyond basic comfort—it can actually determine the long-term health of the wearer.

Even before its official opening, the nutrition centre had already begun to extend health services to children of Kibera.  With a start-up number of 100 malnourished children, the nutrition centre has made incredible strides to help boys and girls stay in school and improve their health.  Preliminary activities like the shoe distribution offer a great opportunity for parents and children to get acquainted with the centre and its staff.  The combination of new shoes and access to nutritional services better equips these children for their journeys.

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