‘FeFA girls’: An initiative to address Malnutrition

WIFS programme targets 130 million adolescent boys and girls and is implemented jointly by three ministries, Health, Education and Women and Child Development
‘FeFA girls’: An initiative to address Malnutrition

Adolescence is a transitional phase from childhood toadulthood when an individual, through a process of intense physiological,psychological, social, and economic change, gradually come to be recognized asadults. The adolescent population in a society constitute a critical segment asthe future demographic, social, economic and political developments of theentire population depend on them. Imparting education and enhancing thetechnical skills of this segment of the population has far reachingimplications on economic prosperity. All this can be achieved when theadolescents get proper nutrition and thereby, have good health.

According to census 2011, India, has 253.2 millionadolescent population. Unicef–India reports that a large proportion of India'sadolescents are anaemic: 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys. Anaemiaamong adolescents adversely affects their growth, immunity, cognitivedevelopment and productivity. In this backdrop, The Ministry of Health andFamily Welfare (MHFW) launched a nationwide Weekly Iron and Folic AcidSupplementation (WIFS) programme in January 2013. WIFS is based on 13 years ofevidence-generated through pilots and phased scale-ups by UNICEF on the use ofweekly iron and folic acid supplementation to address anaemia in adolescentgirls in different Indian states.

Furthermore, the WIFS programme targets 130 millionadolescent boys and girls and is implemented jointly by three ministries,Health, Education and Women and Child Development.

The services delivered under the scheme include:

•Weekly iron and folic acid supplementation;

•bi-annual deworming; and

•Nutrition education about how to improve diet, preventanaemia and minimize the potential side-effects of IFA supplementation anddeworming.

On 15th March, 2019, the NIN and ICRISAT launched 'Fe FAGirls' an initiative to tackle malnutrition among girls, with an aim to preparediet based approach to improve haemoglobin and blood iron levels in girls andto generate scientific evidences on nutritional benefits of groundnut and pearlmillet on human health. ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and theInternational Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) willwork in partnership with the Government of Telangana to address these importantissues.'FeFA Girls "Iron For Adolescents" (Fe: symbol of Iron; FA: ForAdolescent), the project will reach out to adolescent girls aged 16-19 fromselected social welfare hostels in Telangana to address iron deficiency andpoor dietary fibre intake. Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT,said,"Our approach is to use practical food-based solutions using crops rich iniron and dietary fibres that have been shown to improve the gut microbiomecomposition. We aim to achieve overall improvement of iron biomarkers naturallyin adolescent girls with mild to moderate iron deficiency".

In India, the state of J&K holds 19th rank, having 26,51,315 adolescent population. The male adolescent population being 13, 85,217and females 12, 66,098 respectively. The State of J&K has no better pictureto present in terms of adolescent girls' health; most of the girls suffer frommild to moderate anaemia. Initiatives like 'Fe FA Girls' is a welcome step andshould also be launched here to combat this nutritional problem. State HealthMinistry should collaborate with civil society organizations to broaden therange of services for out-of-school adolescents and support state governmentsin providing nutrition education, life skills and vocational training servicesshould be imparted to adolescents. Technical help can be sought from CommunityNutritionists, Dieticians, Food Technologists and Research institutions like,Institute of Home Science and Department of Food Technology, University ofKashmir for developing diet plans, recipies, foods and engineering certainfoods for such vulnerable groups.

The author is Sr. Research Fellow Institute of Home Science,University of Kashmir

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