- Anemia has many causes: almost half of all cases can be attributed to iron deficiency; other common causes include genetic factors and infections, such as malaria and schistosomiasis.
- Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a key protein responsible for the movement of oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency anemia can adversely affect the cognitive and motor development of children and the physical capacity of children and adults.
- Iron deficiency anemia is considered to be one of the most important contributing factors to the global burden of disease because of its harmful effects on child growth and development, as well as the scale of the danger it poses to the lives of pregnant women and their unborn babies.
- Until fortified foods become widely available, or until poor rural people eat enough foods rich in micronutrients, anemia control programs such as providing iron supplements will be a key means to prevent and control anemia in developing countries.
Helen Keller International's work in anemia control is varied and a critical part or our work in reducing malnutrition. We encourage pregnant and post-partum women to take iron-folic acid supplements, we promote de-worming for pregnant women and children 12-59 months, and we also promote the use of insecticide-treated bed nets to reduce exposure to malaria. Intestinal worms and malaria are major contributors to anemia in these vulnerable populations.
We also work to improve access to iron-fortified products. In collaboration with local partners, Helen Keller International researches and deploys effective social marketing campaigns and distribution strategies to help increase awareness and adoption of point-of-use food fortificants, such as Sprinkles®, micronutrient powders, fortified sweet soy sauce, and iron-fortified bread, all inexpensive products that can be used to easily fortify home-cooked meals. Examples of our efforts include:
- HKI’s initiative, Fortify West Africa, aims to require mandatory fortification of wheat flour with iron and folic acid throughout West Africa.
- In Indonesia, HKI actively works with local partners to develop and implement social marketing strategies aimed at increasing the awareness and consumption iron-fortified sweet soy sauce. HKI developed promotional materials such as flip-charts and flyers to help achieve the campaign goals.
Marketing efforts included disseminating information and providing training to educate health workers and mothers about anemia and the proper use of Sprinkles®.