IFAD targets female malnutrition crisis

ROME - The international conference "Leaving no one behind - making the case for adolescent girls," will take place at IFAD headquarters in Rome on Monday. It has been organised by IFAD and Save the Children, with support from the Canadian government. Integrated and multi-sectoral measures to save adolescent girls from malnutrition and prevent early deaths are among the matters to be discussed.

 By 2030 there will be 129 million children with stunted growth due to malnutrition, mostly born from young mothers. The intergenerational cycle of malnutrition is as a result of various factors, which must be addressed in an integrated manner: poverty, socio-cultural norms, low education levels, lack of safe drinking water, limited access to health systems, access to resources, all of which are necessary to make young girls economically independent and aware, thereby protecting them from early marriages.

 Every year, about 12 million girls marry prematurely and 16 million adolescents become mothers worldwide. While girls play an essential role in the economic and human development of their families and communities, they are strongly threatened by varying experiences of exclusion and discrimination, such as early marriages and/or early pregnancies, violence, all kind of abuses, and poor access to essential services.

 "Adolescent girls, especially if they are undernourished, are more likely to die in childbirth or to give life to children with nutritional deficits, who are more vulnerable and exposed to premature death," emphasises Daniela Fatarella, Deputy CEO of Save the Children Italy, the international organisation that has been fighting since 1919 to save the lives of children and guarantee them a future. "To stop the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, it is important to invest in young girls, improve their nutritional health and above all, empower them, providing them with necessary life-skills to strengthen them, improve their self-esteem and ability to emancipate themselves, both socially and economically. Ensuring appropriate nutrition for adolescent girls," adds Fatarella,"requires integrated and multi-sectoral approaches. Unfortunately, there are few good practices documented and so we ask for greater commitment from the international community and governments in prioritizing adolescent girls' focused initiatives."

 Supporting young girls is therefore fundamental in positively influencing the nutrition of future generations, reducing stunting by 40% by 2025 and eliminating all forms of malnutrition by 2030, as foreseen by Goal 2 of the Agenda 2030.

 Addressing the nutrition problems of adolescent girls, investigating the causes and finding multi-sectoral solutions to malnutrition, a condition that has long-term impacts and that causes disability and early deaths of young women and their children is the aim of the international conference "Leaving no one behind - making the case for adolescent girls."

 The conference focuses on adolescent girls and aims to identify concrete actions needed to achieve SDG 2 targets and thus contribute to the United Nation Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) to eliminate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition. The Decade on Nutrition requires strong, high-level actions, multi-sectoral collaboration and synergies to achieve sustainable food systems and improve food security and nutrition for all.

 "Adolescent girls represent the future for their countries and more specifically a building block to women's empowerment. Girls deprived of their rights to education are deprived of entering decent and skilled employment, a cornerstone for good nutrition for young children," said Margarita Astralaga, Director of IFAD's Environment, Climate, Gender and Social Inclusion Division. "It is for this reason that IFAD is committing to recognising that adolescents are not a homogenous group, but include both girls and boys faced with different challenges and opportunities."

 The two days’ dialogue in Rome will underline the importance of looking not only at initiatives aimed to support nutrition but also at all those interventions that may indirectly influence girls’ nutrition, guaranteeing the respect of their rights and those of future generations. Among these, particular attention will be paid to the prevention of early marriages and pregnancies and the promotion of the empowerment for girls and boys. The need to engage them in programmes, policies and advocacy will be emphasised. A group of girls and boys from different countries committed in advocating for the rights of young people will take part in the conference. They will tell their stories, the challenges they face and will share their recommendations with the international community. Representatives of governments, academia, research, civil society and international organizations will also take part in the conference and contribute to the discussions.