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BANDUNG, INDONESIA West Java Provincial Health Office and Nutrition International, on account of International Youth Day (12 August), organized a mega event with over 1.3 million adolescent boys and girls to raise awareness about adolescent nutrition and anaemia prevention.

The hybrid event, titled Gemaz (Generasi Emas Bebas Anemia dan Zero New Stunting) witnessed 1.3 million school-going adolescents from 5,658 schools in West Java coming together (in-person and virtually) to consume one iron folic-acid (IFA) supplement. The unprecedented number of adolescent girls participating in the event has broken the record of the Indonesian World Record Museum (MURI), making it the largest weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFAS) consumption event in the country.

“Adolescents in Indonesia suffer from the triple burden of malnutrition – overweight, undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies that lead to conditions such as anaemia. Nutrition International has always been an expert ally of the Indonesian government to address this malnutrition burden. Our support continues even for the WIFAS program, which is a crucial intervention to reduce the prevalence of anaemia among adolescents,” said Rozy Jafar, Acting Country Director, Nutrition International, Indonesia. “This year, as we commemorate our 30th anniversary, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on the difference we’ve made, the lessons we’ve learned, and our role in building a better future. This event and our ongoing technical assistance to the West Java government make us feel proud of the contribution made to improving the nutrition of our future generation.”

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, who attended the event virtually, appreciated the collaboration of various stakeholders in improving the nutrition of adolescents to stop stunting. He said that to reduce stunting prevalence to 14% by 2024, early interventions for women before they give birth are paramount. “There are three main interventions that must be in place before women give birth: first is a WIFAS program for adolescent girls; second is IFA for pregnant women; and third is ensuring that all pregnant women receive enough nutrition through the meals they consume,” he explained. Minister Budi added that these three programs must be accompanied with proper monitoring system to ensure adolescent girls consume their WIFAS and the nutrition needs of pregnant women are fulfilled.

West Java Deputy Governor Uu Ruzhanul Ulum expressed that adolescent girls must care for their health since they would become mothers in the future. “I hope the adolescent girls do not just consume their WIFAS, but also implement a balanced diet. I believe this activity will help reduce stunting prevalence in West Java,” Deputy Governor Uu said. He also had brief discussions with several district heads and schools attending the event virtually.

Atalia Praratya, Chairwoman of West Java Family Welfare Movement educated adolescent girls to always pay attention to their nutrition intake. “There are adolescent girls who go on diet and are so busy at school that they forget to eat, which further leads to anaemia. I encourage adolescent girls to keep learning about balanced diet and adolescent nutrition because you are the ones who will give birth to healthy future generations,” she said.

Weekly iron-folic acid supplementation has been a national program in Indonesia since 2016 targeting school-going adolescent girls. While the program has rapidly expanded its reach, the coverage remains relatively low in many parts of the country including the West Java province. The Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas) 2018 reported that despite increased distribution, adherence to recommended IFA regimen remains low. Gemaz is one of many collective efforts by various stakeholders who have come together to improve the anaemia situation, with the goal to reduce stunting in the region.

The event hosted a nutrition literacy session led by the renowned paediatrician, Dr. Mesty Ariotedjo where she educated adolescents on the importance of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to prevent anaemia. “Always remember the ‘Isi Piringku’ campaign that highlights that an eating portion should comprise of two-thirds of vegetables, one-third of fruits, two-thirds of carbs, and one-third of protein,” she said while addressing the audience.

Bringing up the dilemma of eating healthy, one of the teenage girls, Faiza Khaira from Daarut Tauhid Boarding School Putri at the event said, “I think good nutrition is when our meals are enough to cover our nutritional needs. To achieve this, I’m trying to maintain healthy lifestyle such as eating vegetables and fruits regularly. But sometimes what we eat is not enough to cover our body needs so we also need supplements like WIFA to prevent anaemia, especially among girls.”

With schools in Indonesia reopening to full capacity after a long time, the importance of good nutrition must be reemphasized to students. This event led by the West Java government and Nutrition International was aimed at doing exactly that. The event also promoted the use of the Cegah Anemia Remaja Indonesia (CERIA) application, developed by the Ministry of Health, by encouraging adolescent girls to self-report their WIFAS consumption through the application. At the end of the event, the adolescent girls were also invited to take a pledge to have a balanced diet and to reduce the consumption of junk food.

The event was attended by Head of West Java Health Office, Nina Susana Dewi; Head of West Java Education Agency, Dedi Supandi; Head of West Java Religious Affairs Office, Ajam Mustajam; and singer Shakira Jasmine, with star emcees Icad and Zahra, and Sindy Setiawati as the moderator.