The Ministry of Health and the World Food Programme on Thursday released an assessment report on adolescent nutrition in Kenya.
The report prepared in collaboration with Unilever and the Ministry of Health has proposed best practice solutions to help guide the country’s nutrition sector to design adolescent-focused evidence-based interventions.
The report highlights the risks faced by girls as pertaining to their nutrition, health and education status with adolescent girls being particularly nutritionally vulnerable due to a number of factors: adolescent pregnancy, menstruation, traditionally lower education attainment, and higher level of physical demands.
Drawing on a wealth of evidence and consultations with 10 to 19-year-olds around the country, and various stakeholders who are implementing adolescent programmes across sectors such as health, education, social protection, nutrition, governance in the country, the report also brings together a full spectrum of issues affecting adolescents. These include HIV, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, and violence.
“From the findings of the report, we have noted that many data gaps in terms of evidence have been hindering effective strategies to addressing nutrition challenges in adolescents and adolescent girls in particular. As WFP, we recognise the opportunity to support the government in meeting the needs of the adolescents in Kenya through health, nutrition, education and economic empowerment,” said Brenda Behan, Senior Deputy Country Director, WFP Kenya.
In Kenya, the proportion of the total population that is adolescents is 22% indicating the sheer need of this population in requiring more investment in their health, nutrition, education, livelihoods and participation.
“We can only achieve higher nutrition standards by embedding good nutrition habits into consumers’ daily lives,” said Dr Myriam Sidibe, Global Social Mission Director, Unilever. “Efforts to scale up nutrition must be supported by the private sector and we are committed to being the private sector of choice in strengthening strategies in adolescent nutrition,” she added.
Highlighted in the report, micronutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent in Kenya, particularly zinc, iron, and vitamin A. From the data, iron deficiency was the highest contributor to the high anemia rates among all highlighted vulnerable groups, pointing to poor dietary iron intakes among these populations.
“Access to essential nutrition planning increases the potential of adolescents in the country to grow, learn, earn and lead,” said Judith Kimiywe, PHD in Nutrition and Professor at Kenyatta University.
“From the report, there is a clear indication on the need to devise innovative ways to better reach adolescents with essential information in order to end the cycle of poor nutrition in the country.
The Kenya Assessment Report on Adolescent Nutrition was developed through the support of World Food Programme and under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Dietetics Unit and the Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health Unit.
“This report is timely as we are at a time when the country is deciding on the best way of holistically addressing the nutrition needs of the adolescents. We want to encourage all stakeholders to engage in discourse, coordination and leverage opportunities in understanding this research to comprehensively address the needs of adolescents, said Ministry of Health Adolescent Health Programmes Manager, Dr Christine Wambugu.
The report is in line with efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2, End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. It touches specifically on target 2.2 which aims to, by 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons.
The release of the report follows the World Health Day celebrations held every year on 7 April under the leadership of World Health Organisation (WHO) to create global health awareness.
This year’s theme was Universal Health coverage which cuts across all of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and brings the hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest.