• Anaemia results from a lack of red blood cells or dysfunctional red blood cells
• Overall, 45.1 per cent of the estimated cases are in malaria-endemic sub-counties
Progress to reduce anaemia in women in Kenya is too slow to reach the global target, the World Health Organisation says.
Globally, in 2019, anaemia affected 37 per cent of pregnant women and 30 per cent of women 15 to 49 years of age, WHO said when it launched its first-ever comprehensive framework on reducing anaemia.
One of the global nutrition targets is a 50 per cent reduction in the prevalence of anaemia in women of reproductive age by 2025, but the WHO noted progress in many developing countries is too slow.
“Most work on addressing anaemia has been focused on the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency,” WHO nutrition director Francesco Branca said in a statement.
“However, anaemia is a complex condition with multiple causes, including other nutritional deficiencies, infections, inflammation, gynaecological and obstetric conditions, and inherited red blood cell disorders.”
In Kenya, moderate anaemia prevalence increased from 16.8 per cent in 2016 to 30.1 per cent in 2019, and severe anaemia prevalence increased from seven per cent in 2016 to 16.6 per cent in 2019, according to the Kenya Health Information System.
Overall, 45.1 per cent of the estimated cases are in malaria-endemic sub-counties, with the coastal endemic zone having the highest proportion at 72.8 per cent, according to an analysis published by epidemiologist Dr Julius Odhiambo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
WHO noted anaemia increases the risk of infections and death, impairs cognitive performance and causes extreme fatigue, poor pregnancy outcomes, loss of earnings and poor growth and development. It is a strong indicator of overall health.
The new framework sets forth ways to address the direct causes, risk factors and broad social inequities that are fundamental drivers for anaemia.
It describes the necessary comprehensive approach that brings together multiple sectors and actors, and lays out key action areas to improve the coverage and uptake of interventions.
Acknowledging that health remains the predominant sector for delivering many of the recommended interventions, the framework also proposes actions that other societal stakeholders can take.
“These include governments, civil society, academia, researchers, funding agencies, international organisations and media. Each has its particular role to perform in reducing anaemia and keeping people healthy,” the WHO said in a statement.
The framework was launched during the International Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Cape Town last week.
Anaemia results from a lack of red blood cells or dysfunctional red blood cells in the body.
This leads to reduced oxygen flow to the body's organs. Symptoms may include fatigue, skin pallor, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness or a fast heartbeat.
Iron deficiency is the most common and commonly recognised cause of anaemia and, to date, most work on addressing anaemia has been focused on the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency.
The framework comes midway through the era of the Sustainable Development Goals, when progress in reducing anaemia has stagnated.
“While the main focus is on menstruating women and adolescents, pregnant and postpartum women, and children in low- and middle-income countries, several interventions also benefit populations across the life course and around the world,” WHO said.