The Health Ministry officially launched a programme on Wednesday to cut down on anaemia levels among the large adolescent population in the country. Anaemia is a medical condition in which a person suffers from lack of red blood cells/haemoglobin in his/her blood levels, resulting in fatigue, impaired physical growth and weariness. The condition occurs due to deficiency of iron.
Government data show that at least 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys in the age group of 15-19 years in India are anaemic, with a large percentage suffering from moderate to severe anaemia.
Under the programme titled ‘Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation’ (WIFS), adolescent children, who go to government or aided school as well as those who have dropped out, will be administered a tablet once a week for 13 months. Counselling and a proper information campaign will also be conducted to ensure timely implementation of the programme.
“Through this programme, we can can turn a young India into a healthy India. It is a matter of great happiness for me,” said JP Nadda, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, at the launch in New Delhi. He added that the programme aims to cover 11.2 crore adolescents across the country.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that the young energy is channelized in the right direction. This can only be achieved if the adolescents are physically and mentally well-prepared for the future of their country,” he said.
The launch was also attended by popular actress Priyanka Chopra, who is the UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador.
“The statistics for anaemia are so scary, particularly among the girl child. WIFS is a way of solving our problem to a great extent,” said Chopra, who has spent almost a decade endorsing the campaigns of the Health Ministry and UNICEF.
Chopra said that her health improved to a great extent after she started taking the iron tablets.
In India, even though malnutrition is widely prevalent among men, women and children, lack of leadership and political action has resulted in millions suffering stunted growth and high incidence of heart diseases. The mortality rate among children below the age of five is also high in India.
“Although examples of state-level leadership are emerging, we believe that national policy commitments and national target-setting are critical to clarifying and emphasising policy priorities,” wrote Lawrence Haddad and Purnima Menon, senior research fellows at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Renewed focus also needs to be on India’s national health spending, which has gone down from 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2004 -05 to 4 per cent in 2013-14. World Bank data showed that in US, the health expenditure is 17% of the GDP in 2013-14 and 9% in the UK.