New Delhi: To deal with the problem of anaemia, the Central government will soon launch a weekly iron and folic supplementation (WIFS) programme under which the supplements will be provided to nearly 12 crore adolescents.

As part of its nation-wide programme, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has suggested to states that a fixed day in a week, preferably Monday, be earmarked as the day when iron and folic acid tablets are provided to adolescents.

Funding for the scheme to states would be provided under the National Rural Health Mission and states are advised to project their fund requirements in Programme Implementation Plans for 2012-13, so that the scheme can be rolled out in the forthcoming financial year, said a Health Ministry release.

The WIFS programme includes administration of supervised weekly iron-folic acid supplements of 100mg elemental iron and 500ug Folic acid, screening of target groups for moderate/severe anaemia and referring these cases to an appropriate health facility, information and counselling for improving dietary intake and for taking actions for prevention of intestinal worm infestation.

The ministry has also started capacity building of service providers (Medical Officers, Sabla coordinators, Anganwadi Worker (AWW) Staff Nurses, School teachers) of stakeholder ministries like the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, through a two-day workshop with technical support from UNICEF and WHO.

 India has high prevalence of adolescent anaemia, as of the 12.2 crore adolescents in India (as per Census 2011) in age group of 15-19 years, about 5.7 crores are girls, of which 3.2
crore are anaemic. There are 6.5 crores boys in this age of which about 2 crores are anaemic.

Anaemia occurs primarily due to iron deficiency and is the most widespread nutritional deficiency disorder in the country. It is a result of under-nutrition and poor dietary intake of iron and is a nationwide problem, not only among pregnant women, infants and young children but also among adolescents.

Anaemia in adolescents results in poor physical growth, reduced school performance, diminished concentration in daily tasks thus impacting work capacity and work output resulting in diminished earning capacity.

In adolescent girls, it also enhances the risk of preterm delivery and having babies with low birth weight. These babies are more likely to be ill and not reach the age of one year.

Anaemia in adolescent girls also increases their risk of maternal deaths. Above 1/3rd of all maternal deaths take place in young women in the age group of 15-24 years. Neonatal mortality is also hugely influenced by maternal health being as high as 54 per 1000 amongst those aged 15-19 years, a Health Ministry statement said.