Focusing on anaemia

Towards an integrated approach for effective anaemia control

World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund

Publication details

Number of pages: 2
Publication date: 2004
Languages: Englsh, French



Anaemia, defined as haemoglobin concentration below established cut-off levels, is a widespread public health problem with major consequences for human health as well as social and economic development. Although estimates of the prevalence of anaemia vary widely and accurate data are often lacking, it can be assumed that in resource-poor areas significant proportions of young children and women of childbearing age are anaemic.

WHO estimates the number of anaemic people worldwide to be a staggering two billion and that approximately 50% of all anaemia can be attributed to iron deficiency. The most dramatic health effects of anaemia, i.e., increased risk of maternal and child mortality due to severe anaemia, have been well documented. In addition, the negative consequences of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) on cognitive and physical development of children, and work productivity of adults are of major concern.

Moreover, the high Joint statement by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund prevalence of anaemia in surgical patients may increase the risk of postoperative morbidity and mortality.

Although anaemia has been recognized as a public health problem for many years, little progress has been reported and the global prevalence of anaemia remains unacceptably high. WHO and UNICEF therefore reemphasize the urgent need to combat anaemia and stress the importance of recognizing its multifactorial etiology for developing effective control programmes.