Great Ethiopian run highlights importance of nutrition for women and girls

She'll Grow Into It campaign at the Great Ethiopian Run

Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA – The 2020 Great Ethiopian Run brought together more than 15,000 participants for the Women First 5KM Road Race in Addis Ababa. This year’s event was themed around the “With Good Nutrition She’ll Grow Into It” campaign, highlighting the important role nutrition plays in helping girls reach their full potential.

Nutrition International co-sponsored the event to underscore the role of nutrition in improving gender equality. The annual race coincided with International Women’s Day and aimed to empower, promote and celebrate women’s excellence.

Ethiopian President H.E Sahle-Work Zewde addressed the runners before the start of the race and reinforced the message that good nutrition is key women’s empowerment, especially for adolescent girls.

“Women’s empowerment, gender equality and good nutrition should be in our mind and practice every day,” said H.E. Zewde.

Though adolescents constitute more than 25% of Ethiopia’s population, they are often neglected in health and nutrition programming. Due to biological, social and cultural reasons, girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition than boys. More than one third of adolescents in Ethiopia are too thin for their height, anaemic or stunted, yet only half of the country’s health facilities provide adolescent services. Nutrition International is working in the country to address this discrepancy.

Nutrition International pioneered the introduction and scale up of a weekly iron and folic acid supplementation and nutrition education to reduce anaemia in adolescents. These interventions are currently reaching more than 960,000 girls in six regions of the country.

“For years, adolescent nutrition has been neglected in Ethiopia,” said Nutrition International Ethiopia Country Director, Dr. Amare Deribew at the race. “Today, we are working with the Federal Ministry of Health and partners to implement adolescent nutrition programs in 90 woredas. I’m happy some beneficiaries of our programs participated in today’s race.”

Azeb Lelisa, Nutrition International Ethiopia’s senior programs manager for infant and young child feeding, also participated in the race and spoke after crossing the finish line.

“Girls who grow with good nutrition can change the health situation, both for their families and their country,” she said.

Ethiopian long-distance runner Tsigie Gebreselama won the race, defeating the 2019 champion Yalemzerf Yehuala, and Nigist Haftu, who placed second and third, respectively. Legendary athletes Meseret Defar, the race ambassador, and Gebreselassie, chair of the Great Ethiopian Run, presented the awards to the winners.

“Without nutrition, there is no running and there is no winning in athletics,” said Gebreselassie, lauding the call to provide good nutrition to girls.

Dr. Deribew also presented awards in several categories, recognizing both athletes and iconic Ethiopian women. Musician Betty G received the 2020 Iconic Woman award.

“We are what we eat. If we want to have a good life and be successful we have to eat healthy food,” she said.

Ann Witteveen, Nutrition International’s senior director of programs, briefing the press before the race, spoke about the impact that good nutrition can have on a girl’s life.

“Good nutrition is foundational to achieving a better future,” she said. “With good nutrition a girl’s future won’t just be something she dreams about. With good nutrition she’ll grow into it.”