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Uzbekistan fortifies foods to protect children against anaemia

© UNICEF video
Dilafruz Ashurmatova unknowingly passed anaemia on to her daughter during pregnancy. Thanks to special care, her baby is now on the road to good health.
By Steve Nettleton

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 4 January 2008 – Dilafruz Ashurmatova gently grasps the tiny thumbs of her five-month-old daughter, who smiles and tries to grasp her hands in return. Not long ago, even such a simple exchange was impossible.

Ms. Ashurmatova’s daughter suffers from the blood disorder anaemia and is in Tashkent for a check-up.

At birth, Ms. Ashurmatova thought the baby was perfectly healthy. But when her daughter was three months old, she stopped growing and became sick and grew frighteningly weak. The mother learned from doctors that she had developed anaemia during her pregnancy, causing her daughter to be born with a severe form of the illness.

“We were shocked when the doctors told us she had anaemia. We always thought we were giving her enough food,” said Ms. Ashurmatova.

After two months of treatment, the baby improved dramatically. She moved about much more and once again started making healthy noises.

© UNICEF video
UNICEF and the authorities in Uzbekistan hope staple foods such as flour, fortified with micronutrients, will prove successful in the fight against anaemia.

Nutrients to curb deficiency

Iron-deficiency anaemia is an alarmingly common condition in Uzbekistan. According to a 2006 national survey, it affects more than one-third of children under the age of five.

Anaemic children are more likely than others to die of common childhood illnesses or suffer from slow growth and development.

With support from UNICEF, Uzbekistan is working to prevent iron-deficiency anaemia and other health problems. The country’s mills are being encouraged to fortify flour with iron and micronutrients, and salt is iodized before it is distributed to shops.

Spreading nutrition awareness

In schools and workshops across the country, the government and UNICEF are also trying to build awareness about the importance of micronutrients and how people – especially mothers and children – can reduce the risk of anaemia and iodine deficiency disorder.

“There’s much more awareness in the general population now,” said Elena Nagaeva, the head of the children’s department of the Tashkent Institute of Haematology. “The mothers are more aware of anaemia, its causes and how to prevent it. The mass media has also played a greater role in building this awareness.”

With increased awareness and improved nutrition, there’s growing hope that more children in Uzbekistan can enjoy an active and healthy childhood, far from a hospital ward.




UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on efforts in Uzbekistan to reduce anaemia in children.
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