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New strategy prioritises adolescent nutrition


Ntsoaki Motaung

Investing in adolescent nutrition has far-reaching benefits and should be a priority for governments, the private sector, and international organisations.

This assertion comes from the ECSA Regional Adolescent Nutrition Advocacy Strategy adopted by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday with support from the East, Central, and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC).

Lisemelo Seheri, Nutrition Manager at the Ministry of Health, emphasised during the meeting the significance of accurate data in understanding adolescent nutrition trends.

Seheri noted that the data provided from the Lesotho Demographic Health Survey of 2014 (DHS) might not present a true picture of current trends but assured that the ministry is currently undertaking a DHS survey to provide accurate data.

She highlighted that the health challenges among youths and adolescents aged 10 – 19 years in Lesotho were primarily related to sexual and reproductive health.

She referenced the Annual Joint Review of 2022, noting that the adolescent birth rate was estimated at 91 per 1,000 in 2022.

Seheri stressed that favorable nutrition outcomes among adolescent girls during preconception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding periods were crucial for the well-being of both mother and baby.

“According to the LDHS 2014, the prevalence of low birth weight is higher in adolescent mothers and increased from 8.9 percent (2009) to 13.8 percent (2014),” she added.

Seheri stressed that nutrition plays a critical role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2) Target “2.2: End all forms of malnutrition.”

She outlined the intermediate target of reducing the prevalence of stunting by 40 percent by 2025 from 2009 levels.

Furthermore, Seheri highlighted key goals outlined in various initiatives:

  • Malabo Declaration: Aiming to decrease stunting to 10 percent by 2025.
  • African Union Agenda 2063: Striving for a future where no children will be stunted by 2063.
  • National Strategic Development Plan and Poverty Reduction Strategy (NSDP II): Focused on Pillar 3, which aims to strengthen human capital through initiatives in health, nutrition, education, and skills development.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jones Masiye, Manager of NCDs, Food Security, and Nutrition for ECSA, emphasised the significance of disseminating the strategy.

Masiye underscored that ensuring adequate nutrition during adolescence was crucial to support growth and establish the groundwork for a healthy and productive future.

He also highlighted the need for additional resources to conduct necessary assessments, develop policies and strategies, and scale up programs and interventions in adolescent nutrition.

“To support and promote effective actions amongst the policymakers, planners and other decision-makers, there is a need to advocate, promote and support for investmentsin adolescent nutrition,” he said.

The Programme Officer for Food Security, Nutrition and NCDs Cluster at ECSA-HC, Doreen Marandu, highlighted resolutions passed during the 69th ECSA-HC Conference of Health Ministers.

The resolutions focused on strengthening the implementation of appropriate and comprehensive adolescent health and nutrition programmes.

They also highlighted the importance of ensuring meaningful engagement by young people and building the capacity of healthcare professionals to provide such services in a supportive manner that does not intimidate or frighten the youth.

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