Weekly iron, folic acid supplements for 10-19 year-olds

New Delhi: The government will launch a weekly iron and folic acid supplementation programme for adolescents across the country from July 17, a senior health ministry official announced here Monday.

The programme is aimed at addressing the issue of anaemia, one of the most widespread nutritional disorders in the country, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission Anuradha Gupta said at a press conference here.

About 56 percent of Indian girls and 30 percent of boys suffer from anaemia, primarily a deficiency of essential micronutrients because of poor nutrition.

The programme will cover the adolescent population across the country - both rural and urban - in the age group 10 to 19 years.

Thirteen crore adolescents -- six crore girls and boys enrolled in class VI-XII of government and government-aided schools and seven crore out-of-school adolescent girls -- would be covered under the programme.

The health ministry has suggested to the states that a fixed day in a week, preferably Monday, be earmarked as the day when IFA (Iron Folic Acid) tablet is provided to adolescents.

As part of the programme, around 100 mg of elemental iron and 500 mg of folic acid would be given to the boys and girls. They would also be screened for moderate to severe anaemia.

Biannual de-worming six months apart for control of worms will also be taken up.

Anaemia in adolescents results in poor physical growth, reduced school performance and diminished concentration in daily tasks, thus impacting work capacity and work output and resulting in diminished earning capacity.

In adolescent girls, it heightens the risk of pre-term delivery and of giving birth to babies with low birth weight who are likely to be sickly, with a heightened risk of not reaching the age of one.