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Adolescent girls in 3 counties in Kenya are set to benefit from a nutrition program that aims to reduce the rates of anaemia in hat age cohort. The project known as the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Project (WIFS) and Nutrition Education, is the first of its kind in Africa and will be piloted in Busia, Kitui and Nakuru.
The WIFS demonstration project aims to reduce anaemia also known as ‘hidden hunger’, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 2.2 – reducing all forms of malnutrition and WHO 2011, which states that anaemia above 20% be considered a public health intervention targeting adolescents aged 10 – 19 years. Kenya’s anaemia rates stands at 22%.
The project will target adolescents with nutrition education. Adolescent girls will also receive a supplement of WIFS to boost their iron and folic acid requirements because girls during pubertal growth require higher amounts of iron as compared to boys of the same age.
Additionally, being the first of its kind in Africa, the demonstration project aims at identifying systems that will be sustainable and work effectively and efficiently in implementation of WIFS and thus advise the Ministries on the best means of delivery for the project.
In the month of June,2017, adolescent girls from Naivasha DEB Primary School became the first girls’ school to consume this iron supplement in a colourful ceremony graced by the President of Nutrition International Joel Spicer, the Canadian High Commission Representative on Projects Luke Myers, PS Kenya CEO Anthony Okoth and Ministry of Health Officials from the Neonatal Child & Adolescent Health Unit, Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Ministry of Education as well as County Heads of Health and Education.
PS Kenya is tasked in supporting MOH and MOE to provide technical support for implementation of the project, developing BCC strategies to enable adoption of WIFS consumption and improvement of knowledge, attitude and practices, through creation of a demand and accessibility to WIFS while leveraging on the already existing systems within MOH and MOE.
In addition, PS Kenya in partnership with MOH through funding from Nutrition International is tasked with supporting the implementation of this project through provision of warehousing and distribution of the weekly iron and folic acid supplementation drugs as well as carry out a 360 degree “surround and engage” communications strategy to influence behaviour change towards the use and consumption of WIFS. These communications channels will address each level of society from national to community levels in order to ensure that individual, societal and structural barriers affecting the uptake of WIFS are addressed.
Adolescent girls are being targeted because WIFS will not only improve their nutrition status specifically on anaemia but also help with their productivity, performance and in the long run reduce child mortality and malnutrition rates.