Bhopal: Priyanka Chopra, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, today engaged with a group of adolescent in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, and discussed important issues affecting their lives including nutrition and, particularly, ways to prevent anaemia. With this interaction, the Bollywood power player and international recording artist, takes her support to the issue of adolescent girls in India one step forward.
“Anaemia… its a big problem facing young girls and boys across the country but it is one that has a simple, workable solution… Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets once a week and de-worming tablets every six months. It really is that simple.” Priyanka Chopra stated after reiterating her commitment to the cause of adolescents and showing her appreciation for being able to spend quality time with the group of adolescents in the City of Lakes, as Bhopal is known.
“A major symptom of Anaemia is fatigue, which not only impacts the physical but also mental potential of young people across the country. The IFA tablets are a simple solution and one that is available across the country due to the consistent efforts of the Government of India and UNICEF. We need to create awareness about the effects of Anaemia and also how easy and effective the treatment is. Overall, this can have a huge and long-lasting impact on this generation of girls and boys and in the generations to come. The young generation of today is our future and in order for them to realize their full potential, they need to not only understand the importance of good health but also be aware of what is available to aid them in that process. We need to plant the seeds of that knowledge right here and right now.” adds Priyanka
India has the largest number of young people aged 10-19 years in the world – 243 million out of 1.2 billion. This age group – referred as adolescents – comprise one-fourth of India’s population and are key drivers of India’s future economic growth. However, 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys in the age group of 15-19 years in India suffer from anaemia. This means that 1 out of 2 young girls and 1 out of 3 young boys are anemic. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, 52% of girls and 33% of boys in the age group 15-19 have anaemia.
“Research shows that after the first year of life, adolescence is the second highest growth spurt period. Adolescents, if fed and cared well, gain up to 50 per cent of their adult weight, more than 20% of their adult height, and 50% of their adult bone mass during this period. Improving the nutrition of adolescent girls today secures the nutrition of children tomorrow,” explained the spokesperson from UNICEF India.
Anaemia is eroding the mental and physical capacity of young boys and girls, retarding their physical development, making them fatigued and breathless, and adversely affecting their memory and energy to perform daily tasks.
“This is a critical issue for the Government of India, hence we are implementing a Weekly Iron folic acid supplementation (WIFS) and biannual deworming programme for school-going adolescent boys and girls and out-of school girls,” saidSushmaDureja, Deputy Commissioner Adolescent Health Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
The WIFS programme has four components: (a) supervised weekly iron and folic acid supplementation comprising 100 mg of elemental iron and 500 μg of folic acid; (b) screening for moderate/severe anaemia and referral to nearest health facility, (c) deworming prophylaxis (400 mg albendazole) six months apart for the prevention of helminthic infestations; and (c) monthly nutrition and health education to encourage consumption of locally available iron-rich food and preventing helminthic infestations.
In Madhya Pradesh, the WIFS programme reaches out to 7,243,132 people, including in school adolescent boys and girls in classes 6th to 12thand out of school adolescent girls between 10-19 years.
Iron deficient diets – year after year – perpetuate the inter-generational cycle of anaemia whereby anemic women give birth to children with low body iron stores, with devastating consequences to children’s health and development.
“Anaemia reduces the ability to memorise and learn. Children with anaemia have more than twice the risk of scoring below average in math tests. Anaemic children often fall sick leading to absenteeism from school and hence awareness raising is very important. Adolescents, families, caregivers and teachers must understand how anaemia is caused and how to prevent it,” statedGouri Sanjay Singh,Principal Secretary Health & Family Welfare, Government of Madhya Pradesh,while concluding that teachers need to be trained to be able to supervise the intake of IFA tablets.