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Fresh call for government, stakeholders to involve adolescent nutrition among health programs

Adolescents are the future generation of any country and their nutritional needs are critical for the well being of society. — WHO.

Some Adolescent girls identified as Youth champions in Nutrition have once again raised their voices advocating for this issue as Adolescent Nutrition in not yet considered among other government’s programs relating to health promotion.

Denyse Iradukunda, a Global Health Student in the final year of University at the African Leadership University who is also a researcher in Reproductive Health said that efficient nutrition is vital for both adolescent girls and boys of  between 10 and 19 years of age.

“In this period, both adolescent girls and boys are moving to the maturity stage and reproductive health, a girl of this age needs to have proper nutrition as her menstrual cycle starts and other reproductive parts of her body start to develop. The same as for a boy. Malnutrition  affects directly their reproductive health as a result of stunting. Lack of efficient nutrition prevents their reproductive organs to grow well and it can affect their whole future development.” She said.

Denyse Iradukunda, a Global Health Student at the African Leadership University

Jolie Claudette Iramfasha, another youth champion in nutrition from the University of Rwanda’s General Medicine who is in the final year said that the age category of Adolescents should not be ignored while promoting efficient nutrition in the country.

“Adolescents nutrition should be given a priority as they are vulnerable category who needs much body energy to grow, they are the ones to practice a lot of energy demanding activities, they spend much energy while studying and when we compare those aspects we find that they need special attention while planning for health programs.” She said.

“We need to create awareness and mobilize both adolescents themselves, parents, boarding schools and local authorities about this initiative. Youth must know that they are among first beneficiaries of nutrition, some adolescent girls deprive food to keep small size belly but this is a threat to their growth, they must eat at the maximum to grow, the government needs to cater for adolescent nutrition as they do for U-5 children and pregnant women.” Iramfasha added.

Jolie Claudette Iramfasha, youth champion in nutrition from the University of Rwanda’s General Medicine

Nziza Irene Muhoracyeye, another youth champion in nutrition from Bumbogo sector in Gasabo district said that proper nutrition boosts adolescents’ growth.

“Lack of proper nutrition for adolescents contributes to intra-uterine retardation and affects brain development. Once an adolescent girl has experienced malnutrition the case will affect her new born in the first 1000 days, the production time of her family will delay and the child will not perform at school.” Muhoracyeye said.

Suggested solutions

“When we start by explaining adolescents how their engagement is crucial, malnutrition among them will never happen, we are raising this awareness to know nutrition status of adolescents in Rwanda as most researches draw on Under-five children and pregnant women, however the stage of adolescents needs also much emphasis.”  Muhoracyeye added.

Dr. Florence Sibomana, a young female medical Doctor in Rwanda and member of Global Youth Leaders for Nutrition under Scaling Up Civil Society Network who recently launched a new project to further Adolescents’ capacity to be involved in the fight against malnutrition in their communities explains that adolescents nutrition is the nutrition focusing on both adolescents girls and boys.

“We are advocating for adolescents Nutrition as it is an agenda left behind. For instance we are having program focusing on under five years nutrition, pregnant women or lactating mothers nutrition but when it comes to adolescents nutrition there is no program specific to adolescents nutrition while it has been shown that adolescents can play a critical role in breaking generation cycle of malnutrition.” She noted.

She said that it is so critical to promote adolescents nutrition as the adolescent girls who are pregnant are at high risk of delivering low birth weight which is in long run turns into stunting and stunting is irreversible form of malnutrition.

“Adolescents Nutrition is an agenda left behind both in Rwanda or other countries around the Globe. Adolescents Nutrition is so important because during adolescence there is high demand of nutrients as someone is transitioning from childhood to adulthood where much cells and hormones for fertility and growth are being made. Adolescents Nutrition needs efforts of everyone include adolescents themselves, parents, schools, policy makers and Media.” She added.

Dr. Florence Sibomana

Venuste Muhamyankaka, Executive Director of Sun Alliance Rwanda said that under-nutrition is a critical issue among Rwandan adolescents (32 percent) and has effects in their reproductive health contributing to birth mortality due to low birth and anemia.

“We are the first people to raise awareness and advocacy for adolescent nutrition in schools, families and government to provide them with proper nutrition at this stage where they need efficient and sufficient nutrition. We need the government to help us set the initiatives that promote adolescent nutrition in place.” Muhamyankaka said.

He warns some girls who learn negative behaviours from their peers who deprive food to keep the small belly as it is a contributing factor to stunting among them.

Venuste Muhamyankaka, Executive Director of Sun Alliance Rwanda

According to the World Health Organization, in most developing countries, a large number of adolescents suffer from chronic malnutrition and anaemia, which adversely impacts their health and development.

The high rate of malnutrition in girls not only contributes to increased morbidity and mortality associated with pregnancy and delivery, but also to increased risk of delivering low birth-weight babies. This contributes to the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

In most developing countries, nutrition initiatives have been focusing on children and women, thus neglecting adolescents. Addressing the nutrition needs of adolescents could be an important step towards breaking the vicious cycle of intergenerational malnutrition, chronic diseases and poverty. Epidemiological evidence from both the developed and developing countries indicates that there is a link between foetal under-nutrition and increased risk of various chronic diseases during adulthood.

Jean Claude Kubwimana

Jean Claude Kubwimana

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