Monday, March 12, 2007

Anaemia a huge problem in India: NFHS-3

One World SouthAsia

82 % children anaemic in MP

India has among the highest number of cases of anaemia in the world, according to the National Family Health Survey recently undertaken. The reasons range from high cost of healthcare facilities, poor food quality and the low status of women As many as 79.1% of India’s children between the ages of three and six, and 56.2% of married women in the age-group 15-49 were found to be anaemic in 2006. The figure for the latter was 51.8% in 1999.

Releasing the official figures of the National Family Health Survey-3, Werner Schultink, chief of Unicef India, child health and nutrition, said, on February 21, that there were a number of reasons for India having the largest number of anaemic married women and children in the world. He cited the low social status of women, poor food quality, high cost of healthcare, and genetic problems as being responsible for the problem. NFHS-3 is published jointly by Unicef, the United Nations Population Fund, Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Avahan, an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Schultink explained that about 20% of pregnant women in the US and Europe are anaemic. “Even in Indonesia the anaemia rate among women is 30-40%. The NFHS data suggests the rate of anaemia has gone up since 1999 in India.” The survey revealed that among the states, Assam is the worst affected with 72% of married women being anaemic, followed by Haryana (69.7%) and Jharkhand (68.4%). The prevalence of malaria in states like Assam was cited as one of the chief reasons for this sorry state of affairs.

Talking about the condition of children, M Babille, who heads the health division of Unicef India, said that the situation had worsened in 16 Indian states over the last seven years. Among the states worst hit, 79% of children in Andhra Pradesh suffer from anaemia. Rajasthan has a figure of 79.8% and Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh over 82%. Portraying a negative image of India’s growth trajectory in the health sector, Babille added that 33% of women in the 15-49 age-group were underweight. Among the states, 43% of women in Bihar are underweight, followed by Jharkhand (42.6%) and Chhattisgarh (41%). “Nearly 40% of children below the age of three in Maharashtra are underweight too,” he said. This latest National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2005-06, shows that the number of anaemia cases has increased among women, while there has been a slight decline in the case of children. Shockingly, even in the nation’s capital, Delhi, as many as 63.2% of children in the 3-6 age-group, and 43.4% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years are anaemic, according to the survey. The last survey in 1998-99 showed 69% of children and 40.5% of women were anaemic in Delhi. According to Sharda Jain, chairperson of the women doctor’s wing of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), India has one of the highest numbers of anaemia cases in the world, with nearly 90% of women and children anaemic. Narender Saini of IMA explained that the normal haemoglobin level in the blood, according to Indian standards, is 12.5 g/dl and that if the number falls below 10 g/dl, the person is considered anaemic. In Delhi, about 30% of people from affluent families, who have access to good nutritional food, are anaemic. The third in a series of surveys, NFHS-3 is based on a sample of households at the national and state levels, with the basic goal of providing data on health and family welfare.

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