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Married women, children most anaemic in India

health and fitness Updated: Feb 22, 2007 17:37 IST
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Public health in India has immensely deteriorated over the last seven years and married women and children are the worst victims, top UNICEF officials said Wednesday.

According to the National Family Health Survey-III, (NFHS-3), over 56.2 percent married women in the age group between 15 and 49 were anaemic in 2006 as against 51.8 percent in 1999.

Anaemia is a deficiency of red blood cells, which can lead to a lack of oxygen-carrying ability, causing unusual tiredness, complications in pregnancy, and many other health-related problems.

Among the states, Assam is the worst affected, with 72 percent of its married women suffering from anaemia, followed by Haryana (69.7 percent) and Jharkhand (68.4 percent).<b1>

UNICEF published the NFHS-3 report jointly with the United Nations Population Fund, Britain's Department of International Development (DFID) and Avahan, an initiative of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Similarly, the report says that 79.1 percent children between the ages of three to six years in the country in 2006 were anaemic as against 74.2 percent in 1998-99.

"There is more than one reason for this development. Low social status of women, poor food quality, high cost of healthcare facilities and even some genetic problems are responsible for the problem," said Werner Schultink, chief of child health and nutrition, UNICEF India.

"Prevalence of malaria in states like Assam is also responsible for this development," he added.

Talking about the condition of children, M Babille, who heads the health division of UNICEF India, said that the situation had really worsened in 16 Indian states over the last seven years.

Among the states worst hit by the blood shortage syndrome, Andhra Pradesh has 79 percent children suffering from anaemia, Rajasthan 79.8 percent and Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh over 82 percent.

As many as 63.2 percent children in the three to six year age bracket and 43.4 percent women between the 15 and 49 years age group are anaemic in Delhi.

Portraying a negative image of India's growth trajectory in the health sector, Babille said 33 percent women in the 15 to 49 years age group are underweight.

Among the states, 43 percent women in Bihar are underweight followed by Jharkhand (42.6 percent) and Chhattisgarh (41 percent). "Nearly 40 percent of children below the age of three in Maharashtra are underweight too," said the expert.

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