Trends and inequalities in the nutritional status of girls and women in Africa

© Ali Adamou / Save the Children

Transform Nutrition West Africa have recently presented work that aimed to shed light on the trends in research and identify gaps in knowledge on adolescent nutrition in the region. To further develop this Jiwani et al.  recently published an article on the Trends and inequalities in the nutritional status of adolescent girls and adult women in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, research Transform Nutrition West Africa contributed to. Their findings reinforce the evidence of a “triple burden” of malnutrition in the West African region, characterized by a persisting burden of underweight and anaemia, and increasingly overweight and obesity. According to the authors it is rapidly increasing among adult women, those living in capital cities and urban areas, and those belonging to the highest wealth quintile. Analyses at the country-level in the West African region revealed large within-country disparities among women: for instance, 30% of capital city residents were obese in Ghana, compared to 9% of rural residents. Similarly, 19% of adult women were obese compared to 2% of their adolescent counterparts aged 15-19 years. In parallel, anemia continues to pose a risk to all women in the region, regardless of their age, residence, and wealth, affecting more than 60% of women in Gabon in 2012.

Jiwani elaborates that “the implications of the rapid rise in overweight and obesity in the West African region highlight the need for multifaceted equity-focused programmatic and policy responses, to address the “elephant in the room” threatening women’s health and nutrition in West Africa. Adolescent girls are a critical window of opportunity to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition on pregnancy and child health. Furthermore, a double-duty approach will be critical to tackling both aspects of malnutrition in the region while ensuring that no woman is left behind. In more recent news, evidence has shown that obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19,[1] thus making it more critical than ever to control.”

[1] CDC. Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19. Available: