As children grow into adolescents, nutrition remains important. Poor nutrition and anemia continue to be prevalent in Sri Lanka, especially in the poorest areas. Obesity and malnutrition are widespread in adolescent girls and young pregnant mothers. A study by The Demographic Health Services (DHS) found that, amongst ever-married pregnant women, 22.9% were underweight and 20.9% were overweight or obese.
Teen pregnancy — closely correlated to poverty and education — can negatively affect an individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing as well as that of the newborn. Poor awareness of basic sexual and reproductive health and limited access to contraceptive methods create additional problems like HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy. A National Youth and Health Survey found that 45% of girls are unaware that pregnancy can happen after just one instance of sexual intercourse.
Water and sanitation take on a special importance as children, particularly girls, reach puberty, and issues of menstrual hygiene and privacy come to the fore. In fact, poor WASH facilities in schools are currently one of the primary reasons for school absenteeism in young girls. This issue is only made worse by the social stigma attached to menstruation, poor access to female teachers and low awareness of proper menstrual hygiene.