Govt to give iron, folic acid to 12 crore young girls

Govt to give iron, folic acid to 12 crore young girls

Out of 5.7 crore adolescent Indian girls, 3.2 crore are anaemic

Aiming to improve maternal health, the Centre plans to give iron and folic acid supplements to crores of young girls every Monday so that they no longer have anaemia at the time of childbirth.

India has a high prevalence of adolescent anaemia. Out of an estimated 12.2 crore adolescents in India (Census 2011 projected population) between 15 and 19 years of age, approximately 5.7 crores are girls, of which 3.2 crores are anaemic. There are 6.5 crores boys in this age of which approximately two crores are anaemic.

Anaemia continues to be one of India’s major public health problems, especially among teen age girls. It enhances the risk of pre-term delivery and having babies with low birth weight, which are more likely to be ill and die before a year of age.

The Union Health Ministry has now suggested that the states to find a fixed day—once in a week, like every Monday—when iron and folic acid tablets could be made available to the young girls in the supervision of either a school teacher or an anganwadi worker, who will ensure that the girls take these tablets rather than throwing them away.

As the scheme will be funded under the National Rural Health Mission, the states have been asked to project their fund requirement for 2012-13, so that it can be rolled out in the next financial year, said an official. Besides reproductive and child health problems, anaemia in adolescent girls also increases the risk of maternal deaths. Above one-third of maternal deaths take place in young women in the age group of 15 to 24 years.

Neonatal mortality is also hugely influenced by maternal health, being as high as 54 per 1,000 among those aged 15 to 19 years.

The government scheme aims at a supervised administration of iron-folic acid supplements, of 100 mg elemental iron and 500 mg folic acid, to the adolescents and screening of the target groups for moderate and severe anaemia.

Anaemia occurs primarily due to iron deficiency and is one of the most common nutritional deficiency disorders in the country. It is a result of under-nutrition and poor dietary intake of iron; a nationwide problem, not only among pregnant women, infants and young children but also among adolescents.

A 2009 Indian Statistical Institute study covering 177,670 girls from 35 states and union territories found the highest prevalence of anaemia (99.9 per cent) in Jharkhand.

The highest prevalence rates were observed among older girls (15 to 19 years), illiterate girls living in rural areas, girls in illiterate households, girls from households with a low standard of living, non-Christian girls, girls from Scheduled Tribes, girls living in west India, and married girls, says the study published in Food Nutrition Bulletin.

Anaemia also results in poor physical growth, reduced school performance, diminished concentration in daily tasks and work output resulting in lower earning capacity.

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