In spite of continuous government measures to fight the menace of anaemia, children continue to remain anaemic. The latest Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) shows, anaemia is prevalent among children under the age of two, and, also in young women, who, in turn, had a higher prevalence of anaemia compared to their counterparts.
Between the age of one and four, around 49 per cent of children were found with iron deficiency. Interestingly, children and adolescents in urban areas had a higher prevalence of iron deﬁciency compared to rural areas.
The survey mentions that, ‘Anaemia is a condition marked by low haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and is an important risk factor for the poor health and development of children and adolescents. It adversely affects psychomotor and brain development; causes weakness, fatigue and poor productivity; and predisposes individuals to infections.’
It further stated, ‘Low haemoglobin is caused by inadequate bioavailability of micronutrients (iron, folate, vitamin B12); parasitic infections such as malaria and helminthic infestation of hookworms and other parasitic worms; genetic haemoglobinopathies such as thalassaemia and sickle cell disease; chronic infection and inﬂammation; and chronic disease conditions such as renal failure.’
Dr Ramesh Bhosale, a gynaecologist from Sassoon General Hospital, Pune, said, “Health of the mother determines a lot about health of the child. Today, in government hospitals, we see malnourished children. Almost half of the pregnant women, who come to government hospitals for deliveries, lack nutritional sufficiency.”
He added, “The mothers are anaemic and have iron deficiency, so the children born are also stunted. Anaemic children mean, we are losing the productive human power, and creating a country with a weak immune system. It is not just a child’s health, but his educational performance also gets hampered because of anaemic status.”
Dr Prachi Sathe, an intensivist from Pune, who had recently carried out a survey on the status of anaemia in one of the government schools in Pune, said, “Anaemia is associated with delayed development and attention deficit disorder. Many times parents and children are not aware about the importance of a nutritious diet. Anaemia is a serious health concern in India. If we fail to treat anaemia, we fail to produce an efficient workforce. Presence of anaemia in mother’s underlines that women should take care of their nutritional status.”
She added, “The statistical analysis confirms to the national figures about anaemia in adolescent women. The analysis of the survey shows that more than 80 per cent of the girls, who are anaemic are not consulting doctors. Only three per cent of the girls were found to be taking good nutritional food, while around 35 per cent were found to be having poor nutritional food.”
- Forty-one per cent of pre-schoolers, 24% of school-age children and 28% of adolescents were anaemic
- Anaemia was most prevalent among children under two years of age
- Female adolescents had a higher prevalence of anaemia (40%) compared to their male counterparts (18%)
- Anaemia was a moderate or severe public health problem among preschoolers in 27 states, among school-age children in 15 states, and among adolescents in 20 states
- Thirty-two per cent of pre-schoolers, 17% of school-age children and 22% of adolescents had iron deﬁciency (low serum ferritin)
- Female adolescents had a higher prevalence of iron deﬁciency (31%) compared to male adolescents (12%)
- Children and adolescents in urban areas had a higher prevalence of iron deﬁciency compared to their rural counterparts