Iron tablets mostly affected one city area, docs baffled

Only 0.1 pc of kids faced problems, officials say

Doctors investigating the side-effects of iron and folic acid pills in 200-odd children in the city have admitted that they are clueless about why most of these cases were reported from north-west Delhi. But they advised to continue with the pills.

“We don’t know why the clustering happened even though most of the schools followed the guidelines. We are investigating the cause. It was a fresh stock with expiry date in 2015,” said Siddharth Ramji, professor of paediatrics and head of neonatalogy at Maulana Azad Medical College.

Last week, close to 18 lakh children in Delhi received iron and folic acid pills in schools and Anganwadi centres. About 200 of them developed side-effects — nausea and vomiting — which necessitates hospitalisation.

Similar reports came from Solapur in Maharashtra too.

Union health ministry officials and public health specialists, however, claim less than 0.1 per cent of lakhs of children who received the tablets, exhibited side-effects, which in any case was expected.

In Kerala, 44 lakh children received the blue-pill — health ministry’s iron and folic acid supplement — while in Karnataka as many as 37 lakh children received the tablets.
There were 34 lakh students in Maharashtra out of which 150 developed mild side-effects.

“A miniscule number of students had shown mild side-effects, though in 5-15 per cent cases, side-effects were expected. The side-effects will go away with increased usage,” said Anuradha Gupta, additional secretary and mission director, National Rural Health Mission in the health ministry.

The government launched the weekly iron and folic acid supplementation programme because of high prevalence of anaemia among the children.

Close to 74 per cent of children up to five years of age are anaemic while 56 per cent adolescent girls and 30 per cent boys too suffer from anaemia in the country.
The Rs 135 crore programme was launched last week in Karnataka and other states targeting children between 10 and 19 years.

The students of class 6 to 12 will be given the pills in the government schools preferably after mid-day meals.

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