Adolescents Nutrition


India is home to 243 million adolescents – children aged 10 to 19 years – the most adolescents of any country. Sadly, a large proportion of India’s adolescents are anaemic: 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys. Anaemia among adolescents adversely affects these young people’s growth, resistance to infections, cognitive development and work productivity.

In response to the problem, the national Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) launched a nationwide Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme in January 2013. WIFS builds on 13 years of evidence-generation through pilots and phased scale-ups by UNICEF on the use of weekly iron and folic acid supplementation to address anaemia in adolescent girls in different Indian states.

The WIFS programme targets 130 million adolescent boys and girls and is implemented jointly by three ministries, Health, Education and Women and Child Development.

The services delivered under the scheme include:

1) weekly iron and folic acid supplementation;

2) bi-annual deworming; and

3) nutrition counselling about how to improve diet, prevent anaemia and minimize the potential side-effects of IFA supplementation and deworming.

Partnerships have also been formed with civil society organizations to broaden the range of services for out-of-school adolescents and support state governments in providing nutrition education, life skills and vocational training services to adolescents. 


UNICEF In Action

Partner of choice for national nutrition supplement scheme 
UNICEF India has been the partner of choice in supporting the universal roll-out of the programme in 14 major states in India, which jointly are home to 88 per cent of India’s adolescent girls, in the following areas: convergent planning and development implementation protocols, development of training tools, capacity-building of field workers, developing external field monitoring and feedback loop review mechanisms and developing communication strategies and materials for mass awareness. 
UNICEF also supports the development of state-specific communication strategies to improve the compliance of iron-folic acid tablets and reaching out to populations usually left out. There are two ongoing innovations in this area. The first is a positive deviance informed communication for improving compliance of WIFS in Khunti district, Jharkhand. The second is engaging girls’ collectives to address anaemia and social norms in self-contained, privately managed tea plantations in Assam. 
A final important part of UNICEF’s work on Adolescent Nutrition is evidence-generation. UNICEF has produced a range of reports and papers to inform decision-making processes in the area.

These are listed here.

1.  Adolescent girls anaemia control programme: Breaking the inter-generational cycle of undernutrition in India with a focus on adolescent girls  Read More 

2.  Aguayo VM, Paintal K, Singh G. The Adolescent Girls’ Anaemia Control Programme: a decade of programming experience to break the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition in India. Public Health Nutrition 2013; 16 (09): 1667-1676.  Read More 

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