HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population has launched a programme to distribute Iron and Folic Acid supplements to pregnant women in all districts of the country, except Kathmandu.
The programme was first launched in five districts in 2003 to make iron, a vital nutrient for would-be mothers, easily available in tablet form.
Raj Kumar Pokhrel, chief of nutrition division at the Child Health division of the ministry, said the government is not going to include Kathmandu in the programme as most pregnant women visit hospitals and nearby health institutions.
“Furthermore, the urban lifestyle has made it difficult for us to conduct the programme. But we are distributing the tablets free of cost at different health institutions in Kathmandu,” he said adding that the programme was expanded to all districts in May 2012.
The government’s policy is to provide iron supplements to pregnant women daily from the second trimester to 45 days after delivery. In 1998, Anaemia had emerged as a serious public health problem in the country. The national survey conducted then had found that 75 per cent of pregnant women were anaemic and only one third of them had adequate iron levels.
The government modified its supplementation policy in 2002, expanding distribution of tablets for pregnant and post-partum women through Female Community Health Volunteers.
With the expansion of the programme, the number of women taking iron tablets has increased drastically. The Nepal Demographic Health Survey showed that 59 per cent of pregnant women in 2006 and 80 per cent of pregnant women in 2011 were taking iron tablets.
Likewise, the survey showed that only 42 per cent of pregnant women in 2006 and 48 per cent in 2011 were anaemic. Pokhrel said health volunteers were trained to counsel pregnant women, distribute iron tablets and keep records.