KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — One in five or 21.3 per cent of Malaysians suffer from anaemia or low haemoglobin concentration in red blood cells, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 (NHMS 2019).
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in particular, based on the survey, three out of 10 women in the reproductive ages of between 15 and 49 years old suffer from anaemia.
“Anaemia can result in premature birth and affect mental, physical and cognitive development which in turn will lead to low birth weight and stunted growth,” he said in a statement, today.
He said among the causes of anaemia are iron and folic acid deficiency which could also cause permanent defects in infants such as neural tube defects (NTD).
“NTD is a problem of the formation and growth of the baby’s nerves while in the womb that can cause the baby to be born with an incomplete skull, stunted brain growth and imperfect spine formation,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the problem further increases the cost of rehabilitation and patient management, reduces the quality of life and could lead to death.
In this regard, he said the fortification of subsidised wheat flour with iron and folic acid could help the people, especially the low-income group to get access to nutritious food to improve their nutritional and health status, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
He said the initiative by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) also received good cooperation from wheat flour manufacturers and hoped the support would continue.
He also said the continued support from manufacturers was important in the Health Ministry’s (MOH) efforts to fortify all wheat flour in the local market with iron and folic acid on a mandatory basis.
“The MOH welcomes KPDNHEP’s initiative to implement the fortification of wheat flour with iron and folic acid under the subsidy for the one-kilogramme-pack general purpose flour and noted that all wheat flour manufacturers involved have been implementing this since July 1.
“The implementation of this initiative is in line with the MOH’s recommendations where it is an effective and comprehensive public health intervention to increase iron and folic acid intake among Malaysians,” he added.