29%

Non-pregnant women are anaemic

38%

Pregnant women are anaemic

30%

Reduction in work capacity and performance for men & women due to anaemia

The Challenge

While malnutrition affects at least one out of three people on the planet, its impacts are particularly heavy on women and girls.

Fundamental to our approach is a focus on gender equality that seeks to address the disproportionate burden women and girls carry, which affects their health and wellbeing.

Improved nutrition, particularly for women and girls, is a critical element in the drive for gender equality and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The gender divide

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by iron deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia is often a result of iron deficiency brought on by:

  • Increased physiological demands during pregnancy (where iron requirements nearly triple)
  • Increased physiological demands during menstruation (where iron requirements are one and a half times that for males)
  • Lack of access to iron-rich foods, frequently due to poor socio-economic status and/or intrahousehold food distribution

Overall, the most vulnerable, poorest and least educated groups are disproportionately affected by iron deficiency anaemia. These groups are often overrepresented by women and girls.

Iron deficiency and anaemia

Iron deficiency and anaemia can decrease women’s energy and wellbeing.

One of the consequences of iron deficiency and anaemia is fatigue. Physical work capacity and performance can be reduced in iron-deficient women and men.

Preventing and controlling iron deficiency and anaemia supports women’s health and nutrition and may improve women’s energy and potential to engage in economic opportunities, improve her quality of life, enhance her ability to care for herself and potentially her mental health.

Why focus on anaemia?

The World Health Assembly Global Nutrition Target calls for a 50% reduction in anaemia in women 15 to 49 by 2025.

Women have different physiological nutrition needs than men, and these needs change throughout different times in their lives. Women suffer disproportionally from iron deficiency and anaemia, and the global prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women is more than 38%, and in non-pregnant women, 29%.

Reaching women in the workplace

Women’s nutritional status affects their wellbeing and productivity, and this has economic impact.

As more women in low- and middle-income countries find formal employment, workplaces can become a platform for nutrition-related interventions and services, and may be an opportunity to tackle many of the inequities they face:

  • Many women without children do not regularly access the health system, especially for preventative services.
  • For pregnant women, work can be a barrier to accessing antenatal care and nutrition services.
  • Workplaces can also hinder good breastfeeding practices

When women train as community healthcare workers, and mothers and community decision-makers come together to take action on existing nutritional barriers, the women and their communities benefit.