Iron deficiency is known to be a major problem in underdeveloped countries. Now a sample survey has confirmed high levels of anaemia among young rural girls off Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of India.
Of the 93 school girls covered by the survey conducted by the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), only five were found to have normal haemoglobin count.
If haemoglobin levels below 12 grams/dl (dilution) are considered a matter of concern, the count was far less in most of the girls covered by the survey.
Iron deficiency, it was pointed out, would weaken adolescent girls, making them tired often, gasping for breath while climbing stairs and also lead to health complications during pregnancy.
As intervention was necessary at a young age, ICDS decided to conduct an 'information, education and communication' campaign for the first time in the St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union. During the day-long programme, the girls were briefed on what caused anaemia and how to combat it.
The girls were advised to avoid junk food, particularly deep fried snacks prepared from inferior quality oils at road-side eateries.
They were also told to consume a diet rich in iron. "Tell your parents to cook more of green and leafy vegetables for you," medical officers from Pozhichalur Primary Health Centre and ICDS officials told the girls. They were provided a bottle of iron tonic and advised to take it along with fruits rich in Vitamin C. The girls were served iron-rich food for lunch and given a snack kit that included dates and guavas.
They were briefed about personal hygiene and advised to wear footwear as walking barefoot in insanitary conditions might result in hook worms entering their body.
Senior doctors of the Department of Health and Family Welfare said they had been conducting Adolescent Anaemia Control Programme under the Reproductive and Child Health Project. The ICDS campaign would strengthen their existing project and also help focus on select groups.
ICDS officials said they hoped to extend this campaign to all rural pockets of St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union and cover all the adolescent girls in the region in phases.