NAIROBI, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Ministry of Health and the World Food Program (WFP) have renewed call for strategic investments and policy reforms to boost nutrition status of adolescents in the country.
Senior officials who spoke during the release of an assessment report on adolescent nutrition in Kenya noted that this demographic is at higher risk of hunger and malnutrition thanks to a host of social, economic and cultural factors.
Christine Wambugu, the Head of Adolescent Health Programs in Kenya's Ministry of Health, said the assessment report triggered the urgency for the government and multilateral lenders to prioritize nutrition for young adults.
"This report is timely as we are at a time when the country is deciding on the best way of holistically addressing the nutrition needs of adolescents," Wambugu said during the launch of the report late Wednesday.
"We want to encourage all stakeholders to engage in discourse, coordination and leverage opportunities in understanding this research to comprehensively address the needs of adolescents," she added.
Kenya's Ministry of Health in partnership with WFP and industry carried out the survey to assess the nutrition status of adolescents who comprise 22 percent of the country's population.
The study revealed that 10-19 year olds were at a higher risk of stunting and anemia due to micro nutrient deficiency.
According to the study, the nutrition status of Kenyan teenagers was mainly influenced by household income, social norms, levels of education, income generating activities and climatic factors.
The study proposed adolescent friendly policy interventions coupled with public education in order to improve their nutrition status and achieve socio-economic development.
Brenda Behan, Senior Deputy Country Director at WFP Kenya, said improving nutrition status of adolescents in the country will have positive outcomes on critical sectors like education, health and security.
Behan emphasized that data driven interventions are key to dealing effectively with nutrition challenges affecting Kenyan adolescents.
"From the findings of the report, we have noted that many data gaps in terms of evidence have been hindering effective strategies to address nutrition challenges in adolescents and girls in particular," said Behan.
"As WFP, we recognize the opportunity to support the government in meeting the needs of the adolescents in Kenya through health, nutrition, education and economic empowerment," she added.
Experts proposed enactment of adolescent friendly policies accompanied by vigorous public education to ensure their health and nutrition needs are at the heart of national development programs.
Judith Kimiywe, a professor of nutrition at Kenyatta University, said enlightened policies and outreach targeting adolescents is key to improve their access to quality diet.
"From the report, there is a clear indication on the need to devise innovative ways to better reach adolescents with essential information in order to end the cycle of poor nutrition in the country," said Kimiywe.