COLOMBO, May 30 (Xinhua) -- UN Children's agency UNICEF warned that Sri Lanka faces severe nutritional challenges with large numbers of children and women affected by Iron Deficiency Anemia ( IDA), the agency said in a statement on Friday.
UNICEF has estimated 1 in 3 children and 1 in 4 adults in Sri Lanka suffer from iron deficiency anemia, making it the most critical micronutrient-related deficiency in the country of 20 million people.
According to the UNICEF, anemia, mainly due to iron deficiency, affects 40 percent of pre-school children and 1 in 2 pregnant women in developing countries.
Infants born of mothers with anemia often have low birth weight, and face a higher risk of dying in infancy and childhood. Premature births, delayed growth and development, delayed normal infant activity and movement are also associated with IDA, the UNICEF notes.
Sri Lanka's Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena acknowledges Iron Deficiency Anemia is a public health problem.
"Prevention and treatment of iron deficiency can raise national productivity by 20 percent," he noted.
Children and adults with IDA have poor memory or poor cognitive skills resulting in poor performance in school, work, and in recreational activities. Lower IQs have been linked to iron deficiency occurring during critical periods of growth.
Una McCauley, UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka said the Iron increases the success of early education, health, and social programs for children.
"By treating IDA early, you give children a better chance to develop to their full potential," she said.
Prevention and treatment of IDA includes the consumption of iron rich foods such as lean meats, fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables, pulses and eggs. Sources of Vitamin C such as fruits or vegetables can also help the body to absorb iron better.
Since the 1980's, UNICEF has supported the government of Sri Lanka in its Iron supplementation program for all children and pregnant and lactating mothers in the country.