As stated by the World Health Organization “anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status”.
Iron deficiency is one the most common causes of this disease, since it is fundamental in the formation of haemoglobin that composes blood red cells and which is responsible of carry the oxygen through the body. It is no accident that iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common type of this health issue. Moreover, it can affect the immune system, endangering the body defences, by exposing them to the risk of contracting infections. Iron deficiency is usually caused by a lack of the substance in the diet, which is contained in some veg and non veg food, such as: meat and fish, eggs, cereals fortified in iron, legumes and leafy vegetables such as spinach, legumes and fruits. Anaemia causes fatigue and weakness, shortness of breath, pink or red urine, hair loss and brittle nails, as well as depression, dizziness and headache. In severe cases of the disease, it may also lead to heart and lungs complications.
Anaemia is considered as a national calamity in India, since more than half of Indian women and ¾ children suffer from it. Women with heavy periods, or pregnant are more susceptible to contract it. Moreover, during pregnancies, anaemia increases the risks of complications of the mother and the foetus, both during and after birth and can also lead to postnatal depression. A study carried out in two rural villages in Karnataka (India), between 401 children aged 12 to 23 months old, showed that 75,3% were anaemic, which was directly associated with energy intake from food and especially from breastfeeding. The principal factors to blame are the diet and the food insecurity (both quality and quantity), which is directly linked to maternal anaemia, poverty and cultural beliefs. Indeed, many Indian women during periods avoid certain kind of foods for religious matters.
In conclusion, anaemia has to be linked to MHM and also to child marriage and gender equality, because very young women have less decision making powers, which makes them more vulnerable concerning nutritional intake. Usually, especially in rural areas, women and girls tend to eat after having served food to all the other male members of the family, which make them eat leftovers and usually smaller portions of food.
Anaemia is a very important issue that need to be considered as a real disease and solved. In order to prevent it, we should all, women and men, adults and children, have a regular diet, balanced and rich in iron.
PICTURES: drawing from Heeals (NGO)