Over 11 crore adolescents across the country will be given iron and folic acid supplements to reduce nutritional anaemia – a condition in which there is a deficiency of the Oxygen carrier haemoglobin in the blood – under a programme launched by the Health Ministry today.
In India, half of all girls and one out of three young boys are anaemic. Anaemia leaves the cells deprived of Oxygen, causing fatigue or more serious health problems. Iron-deficiency anaemia, the most common, is largely treatable with iron or diet supplements.
Under the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme, adolescents will be reached out through schools and anganwadi centers on a fixed day of the week.
Biannual de-worming for control of worm infestation, information and counseling to improve their dietary intake and screening for moderate and severe anaemia will also undertaken in the programme.
The programme is being implemented in coordination with Education and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) departments.
“We are launching the world’s largest programme and that is its biggest strength. We do have challenges and it is about spreading awareness. We will have to make sure that pregnant and lactating women are aware about it,” Health Minister JP Nadda said after launching the programme along with UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra.
The ministry is also deliberating on various options for providing food supplements to adolescents in place of Iron-Folic acid or IFA because experience shows they seem to dislike tablets.
“Food supplementation is very important to deal with anaemia. If we can supplement food items with iron, I think that will solve the problem to a great extent. We are working on that with Drugs and Food Department and FSSAI. Though the tablets will still be required,” Health Secretary BP Sharma said.
56 per cent of the girls and 30 per cent of the boys in the age group of 15-19 years in the country suffer from anaemia, according to the official data.
(With PTI inputs)