Adolescent Nutrition in Schools
In Liberia, the prevalence of anaemia is high among adolescent girls
Theresa, 16, was afraid of taking the iron tablet when she heard about it; She thought it was for a new sickness that was coming, and people were sharing medicine again. According to Theresa, I used to believe that the pill would be bitter or hard to swallow. The health workers from the hospital came and explained to our teachers more about the Iron tablet and how to give it to us. Our teachers called a campus meeting with the community and our parents to communicate the information. Later when we came to school, we met the health workers, who started explaining the benefits of the iron tablet and answering all our questions.
Theresa explains that her mom used to buy her iron tablets and painkillers when she had pain while expecting a stranger (Menses period). Now, she has a good appetite, sleeps well, and feels ok even when she is helping her mom with work at home. Because of the way the tablets have helped her, she encourages other girls to take them when offered by the teachers and health workers.
Theresa is a 7th-grade student of the EJ Yancy high school in Margibi county and is one of the thousands of girls that have suffered from anaemia unknowingly in Liberia. The prevalence of anaemia is high among adolescent girls (15-19 years) at 55 per cent. This may contribute to the high incidence of low birth weight and maternal and infant mortality, as adolescent pregnancies account for 31 per cent of all births in Liberia. This challenges girls’ health, nutrition, and education and work productivity, all of which affect their futures, as well as their children's healthy growth and development.
Theresa and her colleagues are among the beneficiaries of UNICEF’s adolescent programme, which is implemented in partnership with the Government of Liberia and Action Against Hungry with funding from Power of Nutrition and Irish Aid. The programme provides Iron Folic Acid and Mebendazole tablets for supplementation in nine counties through government structures to ensure high-quality nutrition for all children, especially adolescents in the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities.