Rajeev Arun Ekka (centre) releases “The State of the World’s
Children-2011” in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, March 7: Fourteen-year-old Deepa Kumari is on a mission.
A former anaemia patient who recovered after the intake of iron folic acid (IFA) tablets, fruits and vegetables, she is now going door to door, counselling people on how to combat anaemia, as a peer educator jointly for Unicef and state human resource development (HRD) department.
“I’m aware of symptoms such as loss of appetite, weakness and breathlessness, about which I tell people in my campaign,” she said.
Fellow peer educator Anu Kumari (12), said: “After taking the IFA tablets for six weeks, I feel better. I am also bringing awareness in my community.”
Deepa and Anu were among the 100 adolescent girls sharing their experiences during the launch of Unicef’s “The State of the World’s Children-2011” edition in a city-based hotel today.
Teachers, representatives of state HRD department, state social welfare department and of NGOs were also present on the occasion.
Every year, Unicef publishes the report that combines analyses, human-interest stories, country profiles and statistical data, based on a unique theme, which this year is “adolescence: an age of opportunity”.
For Unicef, anaemia is vital issue especially in Jharkhand. According to the National Family Health Survey report, 67 per cent of adolescent girls in Jharkhand are anaemic, compared to the nationwide 56 per cent.
Job Zacharia, chief of field office, Unicef (Jharkhand), on launching the report, said: “We have to direct attention to 70 lakh adolescents between 10 and 19 years, or 23 per cent of the state’s population.”
The report indicated that even poor families invested in their offspring from 0-9 years, but cut costs sharply when children reached age 10. “Investing when kids turn adolescents can accelerate the fight against malnutrition, poverty and gender discrimination,” Zacharia said.
Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya school warden in Bundu, Poonam Khess, said that most girls were from poor families who suffered from severe anaemia.
“We advised girls to have to IFA tablets every week. We also included fruits, green vegetables, sprouts, lentils and salads,” Khess said, adding they also organised play-and-learn events on anaemia such as quiz, debate and painting contests.
Adolescent girls in Jharkhand — 63 per cent compared to nationwide average of 47 — are still subjected to early marriage and childbirth, which results in high maternal mortality and a vicious cycle of anaemia across generations.
Jharkhand’s maternal mortality rate is 312 per 1,00,000 live births, worryingly higher than the national average of 254 per 1,00,000.
“Such numbers have serious implications. Hence, there should be maximum systematic investment in early stages,” said Sugata Roy, Unicef communication officer (Jharkhand).
Rajeev Arun Ekka, the chief guest and secretary, department of social welfare, women and child development, said they needed to work on a war footing to control anaemia.
“We are running programmes such as Sabla and anaemia control programme. But gender inequities must stop,” Ekka said.
The state HRD department is also running a menstrual hygiene management programme for adolescent girls across 13,000 state-run schools, reaching out to 14.7 lakh adolescents from 10 to 19 years, and has set up state anaemia control cells in districts. School dropouts are being addressed through anganwadis.