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Times of India
18 March 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

Geneva Meet To Update Nutrition Norms To Check Stunted Growth
3 of 10 Newborn Indians Iron Deficient, Says WHO
As many as three out of 10 newborns in India suffer from acute iron deficiency–the highest in the world. The inadequacy is contributing to low birth weight and stunted growth in young children, says World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO’s Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group (NUGAG) is meeting in Geneva from March 14–18 to update their guidance in areas of micronutrients, diet and health, nutrition in the life course and under–nutrition. The group is also finalizing recommendations on aspects like iron supplementation for diets.

Dr Francesco Branca, WHO’s director of nutrition for health and development, said, "India has the highest number of children with iron deficiency, which contributes to long–term health problems. Lack of adequate nutritional iron in children results in low birth weight below 2.5 kg."

Earlier, the National Family Health Survey–III had found that over 63.2% children, aged 6–35 months, were anaemic in Delhi. Anaemia was also found to affect 43% married women, 30% pregnant women and 19% men, aged 15–49 years in the Capital. As many as 35.4% children under 3 years had stunted growth, 15.5% were wasted and 33.1% overweight.

WHO says, in developing countries every second pregnant woman and about 40% of pre–school children are anaemic. Also, anaemia causes 20% of all maternal deaths. Some 13 million babies are born each year with low birth weight. Hence, they did not grow to their full potential during gestation. "An estimated 2.5 million of these low birth weight babies–nearly one in five–are born this way because their mothers did not have adequate iron in their diet," says Prof Rebecca Stoltzfus of Cornell University and member of the WHO expert group.

Around 171 million children, aged under 5, are stunted annually. While 115 million suffer from wasting. Around 3.9 million children (35% of total deaths) die because of exposure to nutritional risk, including underweight, sub–optimal breastfeeding and vitamin and mineral deficiencies – particularly vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc. Some 36 countries are home to 90% of children who suffer from stunting. In Asia, children suffering from overweight increased from 3.2% in 1990 to 4.9% in 2010.

Iron, the Builder
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