Embodying the Future: How to Improve the Nutrition Status of Adolescent Girls in Pakistan?

Improving the nutrition status of adolescents is vital for future economic growth. Adolescents are our future human capital: they are future entrepreneurs, future employees, future parents and future carers. All these roles are negatively affected by poor nutrition.

Targeting nutrition interventions to an adolescent girl offers a window of opportunity to improve her health, her educational attainment and her economic opportunities, as well that of her children to come – thereby disrupting the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

To mark International Youth Day on 12 August, GAIN launches its report Embodying the Future: How to improve the nutrition status of adolescent girls in Pakistan? in collaboration with Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta and his research team at the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University.

The report aims to fill the knowledge gap of around the nutrition, health and social-wellbeing of Pakistani girls, where consolidated data has been lacking, by providing a detailed situational analysis and mapping of existing programs addressing their nutritional and socio-economic needs. Lastly, it recommends practical steps that can be taken to tackle this problem and tounlock the potential of adolescent girls and young women.

The report highlights that in Pakistan, as in many other countries, adolescents are particularly affected by poor nutrition, which compromises their future economic and social capabilities. Key findings include:

  • About 22% of adolescent girls aged 15-19 years are stunted while 16% are overweight
  • Levels of micronutrient deficiencies are especially alarming, with more than half of adolescent girls suffering from anaemia, 42% suffering from are zinc deficiency and 40% from vitamin A deficiency
  • Food consumption is inadequate, with only 15% of adolescent girls aged 10-19 years reported having consumed any green leafy vegetables in the previous day.
  • The underlying socio-economic determinants of malnutrition in the areas of education, literacy, early marriage and early pregnancy are big drivers of the malnutrition problem and a great cause for concern.
  • There are very few programs in Pakistan that target nutritional status of adolescent girls specifically.

The report highlights that further innovation is needed to establish suitable delivery channels and platforms to reach girls, both in and out of schools.

Investment in adolescent health is key not only for Pakistan’s economic prosperity, but also to the Sustainable Development Goals and allow future societies to grow and thrive

Download the report here

Read more about GAIN’s work Nutrition for Women and Children

Read Lawrence Haddad’s blog on the importance of focusing on adolescent nutrition

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Published 11 August 2017