Ntsoaki Motaung and Masetleka Matjekesa
The African Union (AU) high-level dialogue on nutrition financing recently launched the adolescent nutrition campaign in Maseru.
The campaign was launched under the theme: â€˜With Good Nutrition Sheâ€™ll Grow Into Itâ€™.
The With Good Nutrition Sheâ€™ll Grow Into It is an international campaign.
It was launched in 2017 to raise awareness about the importance of good nutrition in helping girls achieve their dreams.
The campaign, according to Nutrition International, bridges the missing link between good nutrition for girls and the broader movement towards gender equality, all while reinforcing the messages of the womenâ€™s empowerment movement and challenging accepted gender norms and stereotypes.
Its message is simple â€“ girls can become anything and everything they want to be, and good nutrition is key to getting them there.
â€œWith good nutrition, a girlâ€™s future wonâ€™t just be something she dreams about. With good nutrition sheâ€™ll grow into it,â€ Nutrition International said on its website.
Speaking during the launch of the campaign, regional technical advisor for Nutrition International Lucy Mugare said the advocacy campaign is meant to highlight the critical link between nutrition, girl empowerment, and economic development.
â€œIt is also to call for action from all levels of government and to promote efforts for prevention of especially iron deficiency anaemia,â€ Mugare said.
On behalf of adolescent nutrition champions from Lesotho, Lintle Makhele said in Lesotho culture continues to be one of the challenges that affect issues of nutrition.
Makhele said most of adolescent girls were discriminated against because of cultural practices.
â€œWe are not allowed to eat certain foods because they are said to activate premature sex desires like eggs. However, eggs are said to be a good source of iron,â€ she said.
Makhele also mentioned poverty as one of the contributors to malnutrition saying it is not every household that can afford to have a balanced diet.
â€œThere is also an issue of preference where adolescents prefer junk food against healthy food,â€ she said.
The champion indicated that in some families, older members were preferred to other members of the family.
When there is little food left in the house, she said, it is eaten by older people, especially the male parents instead of the children who need nutrients more than their parents.
Dr Richard Pendame, Nutrition Internationalâ€™s Africa region director, said Africa is home to about 250 million adolescents between the age of 10 and 19.
Pendame indicated that adolescents, therefore, constitute approximately 25 percent of the total population in Africa.
â€œIt is not simply the size of the population that makes adolescents important but adolescents are in a nutritionally vulnerable time when physical, psychological growth and development increase nutrition requirements,â€ he said.
According to Pendame, that type of behaviour established in adolescents contributes to the nutrition-related problems of being underweight, overweight, and obese.
â€œAdolescents in rural areas and from poor households are more likely to be underweight due to inadequate food intake, while overweight and obesity is equivalent in other adolescents due to poor dietary choices characterised by consumption of processed foods high in fats and sugar,â€ he said.