By Thoboloko Nts’onyane

MASERU – The Eastern, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) has launched adolescent nutrition advocacy during the 71st Health Ministers Conference in Maseru.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an adolescent is someone between ages of 10 and 19.

“There are 56 million adolescents in the ECSA-HC, accounting for approximately 26 percent of the population in the region. Adequate nutrition during this stage is essential to support this growth and lay the foundation for a healthy and productive future.

“Despite this, many adolescents in the region face significant nutrition challenges and disparities, yet are often overlooked in policies, programmes and guidelines. Investing in adolescent nutrition has far-reaching benefits and should be a priority for governments, the private sector,and international organizations. By taking action now, we can ensure that future generations are healthy, productive, and able to achieve their full potential,” reads the adolescent nutrition strategy advocacy.

Through this strategy, the ECSA-HC commits to enhance the nutrition and health by addressing the needs of the member states, through reduction of among others underweight, overweight, and obesity associated problems.

The community further endeavors to decrease the prevalence of anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies among adolescent boys and girls within the ECSA-HC region.

The strategy further says: “Nutrition is critical in the entire life cycle. Chronologically malnourished children are more likely to remain undernourished during adolescence and adulthood, resulting in poor contribution to economic development, high cost of healthcare, and poor health outcomes which have negative intergrational effects.

“For girls, the start of menstruations increases their iron needs and the risk of developing anaemia. If adolescent girls become mothers, they face additional risks in pregnancy and childbirth. Adolescence is an opportunity to provide good nutrition and leverage a second window of growth and to support empowerment of adolescents to form healthy behaviours and lifestyle choices.”

There are seven focal areas for the strategic advocacy upon which the Adolescent Nutrition Advocacy Strategy will be anchored. Those are promotion of multisectoral adolescent nutrition policies and strategies; scaling up of the delivery of evidence-based adolescent nutrition interventions; the expansion of program coverage as well as to ensuring adolescents active participation and addressing gender-based concerns; the integration of adolescent nutrition into government systems; improvement of the accountability, partnerships and coordination for adolescent nutrition advocacy actions; promotion of timely generation of relevant nutrition data, information and evidence and also the resources mobilization of the adolescent nutrition interventions.

The Adolescent Nutrition Strategy for ECSA-HC will run for a five year period, 2023-2028.

Lesotho is one of the members of the ECSA-HC along with other countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia,Malawi, Eswatini and Mauritius.

ECSA-HC is an inter-governmental health organization charged with the responsibility to foster and promote cooperation in health among member states.