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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Iron deficiency anemia is not a rare problem among women of reproductive ages in Ethiopia: a community based cross sectional study

Jemal A Haidar12* and Rebecca S Pobocik3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box: 27285/1000, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2 Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute, P.O. Box 5654, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

3 School of Family and Consumer Sciences, Bowling Green State University and Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health, 302 Johnston Hall, Bowling Green, OH, 43403-0059, USA

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BMC Blood Disorders 2009, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2326-9-7

Published: 7 September 2009

Abstract

Background

In Ethiopia, the existence of iron deficiency anemia is controversial despite the fact that Ethiopia is one of the least developed in Africa with a high burden of nutrient deficiencies.

Methods

The first large nutrition study of a representative sample of women in Ethiopia was conducted from June to July 2005 and a systematically selected sub-sample of 970 of these subjects, 15 to 49 years old, were used in this analysis of nutritional anemia. Hemoglobin was measured from capillary blood using a portable HemoCue photometer. For serum ferritin, venous blood from antecubital veins was measured by an automated Elecsys 1020 using commercial kits. Diets were assessed via simplified food frequency questionnaire. The association of anemia to demographic and health variables was tested by chi-square and a stepwise backward logistic regression model was applied to test the significant associations observed in chi square tests.

Results

Mean hemoglobin ± SD was 11.5 ± 2.1 g/dL with a 29.4% prevalence of anemia. Mean serum ferritin was 58 ± 41.1 ug/L with a 32.1% prevalence of iron deficiency. The overall prevalence rate of iron deficiency anemia was 18.0%. Prevalence of anemia, iron deficiency, and iron deficiency anemia was highest among those 31-49 years old (p < 0.05). Intake of vegetables less than once a day and meat less than once a week was common and was associated with increased anemia (p = 0.001). Although the prevalence of anemia was slightly higher among women with parasitic infestation the difference was not significant (p = 0.9). Nonetheless, anemia was significantly higher in women with history of illness and the association was retained even when the variable was adjusted for its confounding effect in the logistic regression models (AOR = 0.3; 95%CI = 0.17 to 0.5) signifying that the most probable causes of anemia is nutrition related and to some extent chronic illnesses.

Conclusion

Moderate nutritional anemia in the form of iron deficiency anemia is a problem in Ethiopia and therefore, the need for improved supplementation to vulnerable groups is warranted to achieve the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Chronic illnesses are another important cause of anemia.