Globally, 1.62 billion people in developing and developed countries are affected by anaemia, of which iron deficiency anaemia is the most common. Of the people suffering from anaemia, around 100,000 maternal and 600,000 perinatal deaths take place each year causing an economic loss of up to $0.32 per capita or 0.6% of the gross domestic product, according to the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, a non-profit organisation.
December is celebrated as the month of anaemia awareness worldwide. Anaemia is a condition where there is a decrease in the red blood cells (RBC) or haemoglobin in the blood, which lowers the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.
‘Prevalence of anaemia rising among women’
The health and nutrition status of women is considered the defining status of the health of a nation. However, the prevalence of malnutrition in South Asia has estimated to host half of the world’s malnourished children and mothers.
The National Nutrition Survey (NNS), 2011, revealed the least progress in nutritional status of mothers and children in Pakistan. The data showed that 43.7% of children less than five years of age were stunted and 31.5% underweight. Despite a number of interventions, the situation has yet to improve, said Jhipiego Pakistan Senior Technical and Programme Adviser Dr Farhana Shahid.
When results of the NNS 2011 for anaemia in pregnant and non-pregnant mothers were compared with the results of the NNS 2001, it was revealed that the prevalence of anaemia had actually gone up from 28.1% in 2001 to 50.4% in 2011. Similar trends were seen for pregnant mothers in all of Pakistan.
Fraction of budget for addressing malnutrition
“However, the situation of anaemic women in Sindh is alarming and the revealed that 62% of non-pregnant mothers and 59% of pregnant mothers were anaemic,” White Ribbon Alliance National Manager Dr Asma Babar told The Express Tribune.
The Sustainable Development Goals, for which Pakistan is a signatory, covers all forms of malnutrition, including maternal anaemia, and calls for achieving a 50% reduction among women of reproductive age by 2025, which requires a relative reduction of 6.1% per year.
Pakistan stays at the 180th position out of 185 in countries ranked from lowest to highest in terms of anaemia prevalence in women of the reproductive age group.