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(Originally disseminated on May 15, 2018 in Bahasa)

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – Nutrition International and Indonesia’s Ministry of Health jointly hosted a seminar to raise national awareness on adolescent health and nutrition in Jakarta on May 15.

The conference – ‘’Health & Nutrition Education; A Campaign for a Tall, Smart and High Performing Generation’’ – highlighted Nutrition International’s Right Start Initiative and MITRA Youth, supported respectively by the governments of Canada and Australia. Both programs aim to protect adolescent girls from anaemia and improve their nutrition so that they can lead healthier lives and thrive.

“Nutrition International is grateful to the Government of Indonesia for their leadership in addressing health and nutrition for adolescent girls,’’ said Andrew O’Connell, Regional Director, Asia, Nutrition International. ‘’We are proud to be a part of this unique partnership, in which the governments of Canada and Australia are working with us to maximize resources to tackle an important public health issue that is preventing adolescents from reaching their full potential. By joining forces and learning from each other, we are able to reach more women and adolescent girls with improved nutrition and health.’’

Inaugurating the seminar, Acting Director General of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Pattiselanno Robert Johan, MARS, highlighted the prevalence of micronutrient malnutrition among Indonesian adolescents, with roughly 23 percent of adolescent girls and 12 percent of adolescent boys suffering from anaemia, which is largely due to iron deficiency.

The burden of undernutrition among adolescent girls and women of reproductive age in Indonesia is significant. At least one-third of Indonesian adolescent girls are anaemic and, compounded by the prevalence of early marriage and inadequate nutrition, iron deficiency anaemia among women and girls is a major public health challenge.A study has shown one in ten adolescent girls have started child bearing and face a greater risk of complications during pregnancy, low birth weight babies and anaemia.

The Right Start Initiative, with an investment of CAD $1.5 million from the Government of Canada, will reach 13.9 million women of reproductive age and adolescent girls with commercial wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid, and 4.9 million additional adolescent girls with WHO-recommended iron and folic acid supplementation and nutrition education through school. By reducing and preventing anaemia, these interventions will help adolescent girls gain the energy and focus they need to reach their full potential, and will help reduce complications and deaths during pregnancy and delivery for mothers ― and neural tube defects such as spina bifida in newborns.

“Nutrition is a development priority for Canada and a crucial element in delivering on our international maternal, newborn and child health commitments, as well as achieving the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Effective partnerships such as this one can eliminate preventable deaths among women, children and newborns, and break the intergenerational impact of malnutrition in Indonesia,” said His Excellency Peter MacArthur, Ambassador of Canada to Indonesia.

Nutrition International will also be reaching 289,000 additional adolescent girls in 1913 schools across 20 districts through the MITRA Youth Program, for which the Government of Australia has invested $AUS 2.1 million.

“Investing in nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life and during a girl’s adolescence is crucial as the effects of poor nutrition during these periods can last a lifetime,” said His Excellency Mr. Allaster Cox, Deputy Ambassador of Australia to Indonesia. “Australia is proud to support Nutrition International and strengthen the Government of Indonesia’s efforts to tackle its nutrition challenges.”

The seminar was attended by about 250 people, who learnt about adolescent anaemia, benefits of iron and folic acid supplementation, healthy life behaviours and balanced nutrition for better growth and development.