adolescent girls reached with a full scheme of WIFAS





The need

Adolescence provides a critical window to improve nutrition, growth and development.

When it comes to preventing malnutrition’s irreversible effects, timing is crucial. Adolescents grow and develop at a rate that is surpassed only by the staggering growth rate of a newborn.

It’s virtually impossible to overstate the role good nutrition plays in the adolescent stage of life. Adolescents are adding height, muscle and bone mass, while nearly every system and organ in the body matures. For adolescent girls, menarche (onset of menstruation) also increases nutritional needs for iron and other micronutrients related to growing bone and muscle mass, including calcium, zinc and vitamin D.

Good nutrition 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.

For biological, social and cultural reasons, girls are disproportionally impacted by malnutrition.

Despite having increased nutritional needs during adolescence, girls often face the most barriers to accessing the nutrition they need. An estimated 30% of adolescents worldwide are anaemic, and approximately half of those anaemia cases are due to iron deficiency. Malnutrition, along with social and cultural factors, contributes to 130 million girls being out of school. Even when girls are in school, anaemia can hold them back from academic achievement and potential future economic empowerment.

Our solution

Ensuring adolescents have the nutrition and knowledge they need to thrive.

Nutrition International aims to reduce anaemia in adolescent girls through weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFAS) and help them feel empowered through nutrition counselling and education. Boys also receive nutrition education, and in contexts where anaemia rates for boys are high, may receive supplements as well.

We support ministries of health and education, and work in collaboration with local partners, to:

  • Build capacity, train and support teachers, health workers and primary providers in delivering WIFAS, and nutrition education and counselling
  • Support the development and integration of adolescent nutrition curriculum for both boys and girls at school, linking in key themes of menstrual hygiene management, puberty, and sexual and reproductive health
  • Provide guidance on the scale-up of the most cost-effective strategies within the education and health systems, as well as considerations for approaches for the hard-to-reach
  • Support the use of a participative approach in formative research, and in the design and implementation of behaviour change intervention strategies, to address the specific needs of adolescent girls, adolescent boys, parents, teachers, health workers and community influencers

Our Solution

Forging new and innovative partnerships to raise the profile of adolescent nutrition at the global level.

In collaboration with global partners, we are:

  • Highlighting existing data gaps for decision-makers to better understand and address the state of adolescent nutrition
  • Strengthening supply chain capacity and market shaping for reliable procurement of WIFAS
  • Integrating proven nutrition interventions into existing platforms that do not already focus on nutrition

Our Program Gender Strategy

Including sex and gender-based analysis for all adolescent programs.

In accordance with our Program Gender Strategy, all adolescent nutrition programs will include sex and gender-based analysis to make sure that we have identified gender barriers to nutrition, and that the development and implementation of our programs are gender responsive.

Read our Program Gender Equality Strategy

Integration for impact

Integrating approaches alongside nutrition-sensitive areas to increase impact and sustainability.

Examples of integrating approaches include:

  • Reaching adolescent girls in schools by overcoming the gendered barriers to attendance, including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and menstrual hygiene management, as well as social pressures and safety concerns
  • Targeting out-of-school girls who are particularly susceptible to early marriage and adolescent pregnancy. These girls require targeted outreach and fresh approaches and partnerships
  • Providing boys with nutrition education designed to shift gender norms around nutrition and ensure boys also have access to knowledge, skills and information to support their nutrition, health and growth, as well as that of their female classmates