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A REPORT CARD ON NUTRITION: NUMBER 4, MAY 2006 View Previous Editions>

Around two billion people worldwide suffer from anaemia20, most commonly iron-deficiency anaemia, a major cause of maternal deaths and of cognitive deficits in young children; it can permanently affect later motor development and school performance. Anaemia also has a negative impact on the economic well-being of individuals, families and national economies. The UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) has estimated that the economic costs of anaemia in Bangladesh, for example, amount to 7.9 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.21

Iron deficiency and anaemia

Iron deficiency and anaemia

Iron supplementation reduces iron-deficiency anaemia in pregnant and lactating women, but programmes have been largely unsuccessful so far, not least because they have tended to reach women too late in their pregnancy. Anaemia and iron deficiency are also very prevalent in young children, yet few countries have significant, large-scale programmes to address these conditions. As a result there has been no evidence of significant improvement in the global incidence of anaemia during the past 15 years.22 Flour fortification and iron supplementation programmes are being stepped up with partner support.

 

20  World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Focusing on Anaemia: Towards an integrated approach for effective anaemia control’ (joint statement), WHO, Geneva, 2004.
21  United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN), 5th Report on the World Nutrition Situation: Nutrition for improved development outcomes, SCN, March 2004, p. 14.
22  Mason, J., J. Rivers and C. Helwig, ‘Recent Trends in Malnutrition in Developing Regions: Vitamin A deficiency, anemia, iodine deficiency, and child underweight’, Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 26, 2005, pp. 28–34.