Anemia among valley women and way forward

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The health sector of Kashmir has faced and is facing many challenges on different fronts. Be it fight against substance abuse or some other deadly diseases. But one of the biggest challenges they are facing is the increasing number of anaemic cases among women.

According to the doctors, 50 percent of the women including pregnant ladies are suffering from Anemia. These cases are also prevalent among adolescent girls.

The reason for rising cases of anemia is lack of awareness, lack of education regarding dietary habits, nutritional deficiencies, ignorance of menstrual health.

Anemia is a major public health problem especially in reproductive age women because of their high demand for iron.

Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Anemia refers to low haemoglobin.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term and can range from mild to severe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women in the reproductive age group and having haemoglobin levels lower than 12 grams per decilitre (g / dL), as well as children under five with haemoglobin levels lower than 11.0 g / dL are considered anaemic.

All women including highly educated, upper middle class, middle-class and lower middle- class women are Anemic which is a grave concern. If a pregnant woman will suffer silently, then their children too will be Anemic. At Lal Ded hospital Srinagar, seven out of 10 women are Anemic. As per the official data, 650 units of blood bags are being used for blood transfusion of pregnant women and that is worrisome.

Moreover, the Rural women have higher prevalence of anemia compared to urban women, particularly among the lower income groups. Most women are not aware that they are Anemic especially adolescent girls and pregnant women. The reasons being poor dietary habits, unplanned pregnancies and menstrual irregularities.

According to the top gynaecologist, Dr Shehnaz  Taing, in Kashmir, there is no concept of prenatal counselling, medical check-up among pregnant women. Ideally, a woman has to go for a medical check and confirm whether she is fit for a pregnancy.

Doctors believe that before pregnancy, women should confirm if they are Anemic and have other ailments. They should get these health issues treated and then plan a safe pregnancy without complications.

There is another problem in society as women are considered as second-class citizens. The more focus is on men’s diet and health compared to women. There are cases of women who say that they cannot eat nutritional food at their in-law’s home. They cannot ask for such diets. It is the responsibility of their husbands to take care of the nutritional requirements of their wives.

According to the doctors working in Rural hospitals, over 20 percent of women in rural areas don’t follow a good dietary habit and are Anemic. They said the reasons are negligence of menstrual health at reproductive age, blood loss during heavy periods, nutritional deficiencies, and no family planning.

Some women believe that 8 grams of blood is good. But in actuality, women who have less than 12 grams of blood are Anemic. Rural women are doing more domestic chores including outdoor activities in their orchards. These activities drain their energy and due to their busy schedule, they neglect the balanced nutritional diet.

Dr, Basharat Pandit, Consultant Gynaecologist at SDH Sopore said that they provide iron tablets and injections to Anemic women but they avoid consuming it. He said that Asha workers should be more active and play a role to control anemia among women folk. Besides, there should be more awareness, programmes and schemes to minimise the cases ofAnemia.

According to NITI Aayog’s “State Nutrition Profile of Jammu and Kashmir” report, there are over 27 lakh women in Jammu and Kashmir of the age group 15-49 years who are anemic. The Union Territory saw higher cases of iron-deficiency especially in women between 2019-2020.

As per the report, Jammu leads with 349,848 anaemic cases of non- pregnant women followed by Anantnag with 240,841 cases, Baramulla 223,242 cases, Srinagar 219,726 cases and Kupwara 164,023.Among pregnant women, Srinagar leads with 37,940 2 cases of anaemic women followed by Jammu with 30,289 cases, Baramulla 13,105 cases, Anantnag 12,408 cases and Udhampur with 7,306 cases. 

Similarly, 193,874 women are suffering from malnutrition in J&K. As per the report, Baramulla tops the list with 32,372 women suffering from malnutrition followed by Jammu with 21,545, Srinagar with 14,648, Anantnag with 13,044 and Bandipore with 12,389 cases.

Dr Javaid Iqbal Khan, a senior Haematologist and blood transfusion expert at Lal Ded hospital said that Anaemia is the most important cause of complications and death in women. He said that a pregnant woman should consume around 100 tablets of iron after the 3rd month of the pregnancy. A natural diet is very important. People should consume green leafy vegetables especially spinach, salads and iron rich diets.

Dr Khan said that human body can’t produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (haemoglobin). As a result, iron deficiency anemia may leave a person tired and short of breath.

Earlier, in 2016, a report had shown a steady rise in anaemic cases causing 17% death and disability among the women.8 percent deaths were recorded among men.

To minimize the rising cases of anemia among valley women, the government needs to take several initiatives regarding this. Moreover, several awareness programs should be conducted in every district of the valley so that they will not suffer silently. The government should also make iron-deficiency tablets available at hospitals besides setting up blood banks.

Besides, the women should focus on their nutrition and take care of their health before it’s too late.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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