Anemia has substantial negative effects on the health and economic wellbeing of nations and communities. Children with anemia experience irrevocable cognitive and developmental delays and exhibit decreased worker productivity as adults.1 Globally, maternal anemia increases the risk of pre-term delivery and low birth weight, and iron-deficiency anemia underlies 115,000 maternal deaths and 591,000 perinatal deaths each year.2

1. Walker, S. P., T. D. Wachs, J. M. Gardner, B. Lozoff, G. A. Wasserman, E. Pollitt, and J. A. Carter. 2007. “Child development: risk factors for adverse outcomes in developing countries.” Lancet, 369(9556): 145-157.

2. Stoltzfus, R. J., L. Mullany, and R. E. Black. 2004. “Iron Deficiency Anemia.” In Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors. M. Ezzati, A. D. Lopez, A. Rodgers, and C. J. L. Murray, eds. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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Anemia Prevalence


Status of Policies or Strategies to Support Reductions in Anemia*

IFA for pregnant women
IFA for women of reproductive age
IFA for adolescent girls
Micronutrient powders for children
N/A Indoor residual spraying
National policy on sanitation
N/A IPTp for pregnant women1
N/A Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) for household use
N/A Malaria diagnosis and treatment
Deworming for children
Deworming for pregnant women
Iron and/or folic acid fortification legislation
Dietary diversity for complementary feeding
no policy
policy pending
policy in place
missing documentation

* Information from the Global database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA) (https://extranet.who.int/nutrition/gina/en) or country documentation.
The status of policies and strategies have been identified to the best of our knowledge. Revisions and updates are welcome.
1) Not part of national malaria strategy due to low prevalence of malaria during pregnancy
Evidence-informed WHO guidance can be found here: http://www.who.int/elena/en/


In pregnancy, infections are a key cause of anemia and can be prevented by sleeping under a bednet and taking intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp) for malaria and deworming pills. Anemia can also be prevented by taking iron folic acid (IFA) supplements.

In 2014, only about half of pregnant women in Lesotho consumed 90 or more IFA tablets (51.4%)


Infants and Young Children

For infants and young children, delayed cord clamping, sleeping under a bednet, and exclusive breastfeeding reduce the risk of becoming anemic.

For young children, continued breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding (including micronutrients), preventing and treating malaria, and taking deworming pills can prevent anemia and promote healthy growth.

In 2014, 40.5% of children 6-23 months of age consumed foods rich in iron*


Women and Adolescent Girls

For women and adolescent girls, IFA supplements and deworming help prevent anemia.  Family planning delays the age at first birth.

7.5% of married adolescent girls expressed an unmet need of family planning (2014)



In households, improving basic hygiene and sanitation practices reduces the risk of infection and can help prevent anemia.

Only 5.3 percent of households had a place for washing hands. Among those households, almost half (46%) had water and soap for washing hands (2014)