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Jakarta, INDONESIA: Nutrition International, in partnership with the governments of Indonesia, Australia, and Canada, concluded the Prevention of Anaemia in Adolescent Girls – MITRA Youth program. Implemented in ten districts each of East Java and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, the program reached over 400,000 adolescent girls annually with weekly iron and folic acid supplements (WIFAS) and nutrition education to prevent anaemia.

The program was implemented from 2017 to 2020 in 5859 high schools in the two provinces, using a cross-sectoral and collaborative approach to strengthen the government’s commitment towards adolescent nutrition and health. Key results of the MITRA Youth program were shared today with the government representatives and officials from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Family Planning, Bappenas, development partners, academia and media.

“Improving adolescents’ nutrition is key to overcoming stunting. The Ministry of Health is committed to improving the nutritional status of adolescent girls through education about balanced nutrition and providing iron and folic acid supplements. The MITRA Youth program demonstrated an integrated approach involving in-school and out-of-school activities to ensure uptake for iron and folic acid and improve adolescent’s knowledge about good nutrition,” said Dhian Probhoyekti, Director of Community Nutrition, Ministry of Health. She also expressed her appreciation to Nutrition International for its commitment to improving adolescent nutrition by mentoring and implementing good practices with local wisdom to support efforts to accelerate stunting reduction in Indonesia.

At the panel discussions during the event, the central and provincial governments acknowledged the role of MITRA Youth in strengthening the anaemia prevention program by improving supply chain and delivery mechanisms for supplementation. The program also supported in building capacity of key government functionaries from health, education and other sectors, facilitating behaviour change interventions to increase the uptake of WIFAS, and initiating a multi-sectoral collaboration to prevent anaemia and reduce stunting.

“When it comes to preventing malnutrition’s irreversible effects, timing is crucial. Adolescence provides a critical second window of opportunity after early childhood, to improve nutrition, growth and development. Good nutrition at this time can fuel optimal physical and mental growth, giving adolescents the strength and focus to study, work, ward off illness and disease, and fully participate in their communities. MITRA Youth was envisioned to empower adolescent girls with knowledge and supplements to improve their nutrition. We are proud of the journey that the program has taken in improving the nutrition of adolescents and strengthening the government’s commitment towards adolescent’s health,” said Dr. Sri Kusyuniati, Country Director of Nutrition International.

“Australia is proud to support the Government of Indonesia’s efforts to improve nutrition outcomes and tackle stunting. One avenue of our support is through our partnership with Nutrition International and the MITRA Youth program. Indonesia’s efforts to address malnutrition will be the key to, not only improving the health and wellbeing of the population, but also to making the most of its youth dividend to power economic development. Australia is proud to support MITRA Youth and we hope the best practices will continue and spread to other districts across the country,” said Prudence Borthwick, Health Unit Manager, Australian Embassy, Jakarta.

The MITRA Youth program was also instrumental in reaching adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. With innovative approaches ranging from securing an advance supply of WIFAS to conducting home visits to distribute the supplements, the program was successful in reaching adolescents, even when the schools were shut due to lockdowns.

Stunting prevention and reduction is a public health priority for Indonesia and adolescents’ health is a crucial component of it. Thirty-two percent of adolescents in the country suffer from anaemia[1]. One in four adolescent girls aged above fifteen years are anaemic[2]. Programs like MITRA Youth help to combat the high burden of anaemia and strengthen strategies and policies towards improving adolescents’ health. The program and its best practices need to be sustained and scaled up nationally, to other provinces with high anaemia prevalence.

[1] Riskesdas 2018

[2] Riskesdas 2018