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Jakarta, INDONESIA, 16th July, 2019: Nutrition International and the Government of Indonesia jointly organized a meeting to highlight the importance of anaemia prevention among adolescent girls. The meeting was attended by representatives from various government ministries as well as students and teachers who emphasized the need to sustain and scale up interventions to improve nutrition for young girls and prevent anaemia.

Speaking at the meeting, Director of Nutrition, Ministry of Health, lr. Doddy Izwardi, MA, said “Anaemia impacts the physical well-being of adolescent girls, negatively impacts their performance at school, and increases the possibility of complications and fetal development issues should they choose to become mothers in the future. The Government Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation program is helping girls overcome anaemia. We acknowledge Nutrition International’s support in this endeavour.”

The burden of undernutrition among adolescent girls in Indonesia is significant. At least one-third of adolescent girls in the country are anaemic. Compounded by the prevalence of early marriage and inadequate nutrition, iron deficiency anaemia among adolescent girls is a major public health challenge in the country. Anaemia prevents girls from concentrating in school and taking part in physical activities. Undernourished girls also face a high risk of dropping out and not being able to lead productive lives.

Nutrition education and weekly iron and folic acid supplementation are key to combating anaemia and improving the health and nutritional status of adolescent girls, which helps to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

Nutrition International, in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia and with support from the governments of Canada and Australia, has been working to ensure adolescent girls in school have access to a weekly iron and folic acid supplements along with nutrition education and counselling through the Right Start and MITRA Youth programs. With a total investment of Canadian $ 3.6 million or 36 billion Indonesian Rupiah, students of around 9,000 schools in West Java, Banten, East Java and East Nusa Tenggara have benefitted from these programs.

Nutrition International has helped to train government personnel and teachers, support planning, implementation and monitoring, and developed communications tools to equip students, teachers and community members with the right knowledge on good nutrition and anaemia prevention. Nutrition International also supported the Government of Indonesia in developing a national strategy for anaemia control.

Addressing the audience at the meeting, Joel Spicer, President and CEO, Nutrition International said, “Malnutrition is fundamentally dis-empowering, especially for adolescent girls. A lack of nutrition means damaged brain development and poor immune system, leading to a compromised ability to learn in school – or stay in school at all. Together with Government of Indonesia and with the support of the governments of Canada and Australia, we are providing adolescent girls better nutrition, giving them a solid foundation to achieve their dreams.”

Around 20 adolescent girls and boys participated in the meeting and shared their experiences. Ambar Dwi Susanti, 15 year-old and grade nine student from SMKN 2 Pacitan said, “When I was in ninth grade, I received iron and folic acid tablet, but since I did not know about benefits of the tablet, I wouldn’t consume it regularly. But ever since I learnt about the dangers of anaemia and the benefits of the iron and folic acid from my teacher, I consume it regularly every Wednesday… I feel more fit and enthusiastic at school. Since I lead the Adolescent Health Cadres in my school, I ensure every girl has her tablet and also eats nutritious food to prevent anaemia.”

Sri Kusyuniati, Country Director, Nutrition International, Indonesia said, “The World Health Assembly has called for a 50 per cent reduction in anaemia in women of reproductive age by 2025 – a target global experts believe is achievable if a strong focus of anaemia reduction efforts is put on adolescent girls living in developing countries. We are committed to work alongside the Government of Indonesia to improve nutrition for adolescents.”

The meeting participants included officials from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Provincial and District Health Offices along with students, teachers and representatives from development agencies.