24 February 2016

Anaemia Amnesia? Why does no one seem to care about it?

OK the title of this blog is perhaps a bit hyperbolic (I know plenty of people who care about it) but I just don't get the lack of urgency on anaemia.

Data on global anaemia

* A quarter of the world's population suffers with anaemia (see table on right from WHO). 1.6 billion people!

* Levels are high all over the world:  For girls/women 15-49 it is 15% in the UK, 12% in the US,  19.6% in Brazil, 22.5% in Indonesia, 48.1% in India and 48.5% in Nigeria.

* For children the data are even scarier: 47.4% of all preschool children--293 million kids.

* The rate of progress in reducing anaemia is very slow.  As the GNR 2015 highlights only 5 countries out of 185 are on track to meet the WHA 2025 target of reducing the 2012 base rate by 50%.

This is by far the worst performance of any undernutriiton indicator in relation to the 2025 targets.  By way of contrast 39 countries are on track to meet the stunting target.

* The consequences are significant and lifelong: reduced work capacity, impaired cognitive development, premature birth and low birth weight, perinatal, child and maternal mortality

And yet, I don't see or hear the outrage.  Maybe I am looking in the wrong places.  If I am please tell me.

What might be the causes of this lack of outrage?  I am not an expert, but let's speculate.

* Maybe the fact that it affects women so disproportionately, and yet men tend to be in powerful decision making positions.

* It has multiple causes--not just low iron intake, but hookworm infection, malaria, schistosomiasis--so it is complex to address

* The corollary to the previous point means it requires multi-sector coordination to address this effectively: infection control, food and diet interventions, iron supplementation, prevention of other micronutrient deficiencies etc. Such coordinated action is a challenge, but we now accept the need for it as the norm.

* The manifestations are not as obvious as they are for stunting or wasting and are certainly not as easy to assess.  Invisibility and inertia rule.

There are probably lots of other reasons (please share).

This is the year of Women Deliver: 16-19 May 2016, the world's largest conference on the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women in the last decade.  

Surely the time is right for a major new push on this condition?  

With such high levels of anaemia  women's ability to deliver is diminished.  We all need to deliver on a commitment to accelerate declines in anaemia rates for women, children and men. 

1 comment:

Christina Nyhus Dhillon, AREA CoP Moderator cndhillon@spring-nutrition.org said...

Thanks for helping keep anaemia on the radar, faint though the pulse may be. We would love your readers to know that the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition and WHO have established an initiative called the Accelerated Reduction Effort on Anaemia (AREA) to gain some momentum on the action needed to reduce this burden. SPRING helps to support its community of practice. The AREA CoP helps members of the global community dedicated to improving and scaling up existing methods and strategies for anaemia reduction in a coordinated manner. It also aims to build consensus for engagement at global, regional and national levels and commit to achieving the 2025 Global Nutrition Targets endorsed by the 65th World Health Assembly. To join, please click over to: https://knowledge-gateway.org/area/

We look forward to your help building momentum on anaemia reduction!