Anemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age worldwide, impairing the health and well-being of women and increasing the risk of poor maternal and infant health outcomes.

An indicator of poor nutrition, anemia is a condition in which the number and size of red blood cells is so low, it impairs the ability of the blood to transport oxygen around the body. The result is an overall decline in health, including loss of energy and reduced physical capacity. In particular, maternal anemia is associated with illness and death of both the mother and baby, including increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth and low birth weight. Failure to reduce anemia worldwide consigns millions of women to poor health, generations of children to impaired development and learning, and communities and nations to diminished economic productivity and development.

While the prevalence of anemia has dropped, progress has been slow and uneven. As such, in 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global target to reduce the rate of anemia in women of reproductive age by 50% by 2025.

Why it Matters

Anemia increases the risk of adverse maternal & infant health outcomes

Anemia causes fatigue and lethargy, and impairs physical capacity and work performance

Anemia diminishes the health and quality of life for millions of women, as well as the development and learning potential of their children

Anemia reduction can help drive progress against the other global nutrition targets

Scope of the Problem


women of reproductive age are affected by anemia worldwide


of non-pregnant women between 15-49 years old were anemic in 2011


of pregnant women between 15-49 years old were anemic in 2011

Recommended Action

Photo credit: United Nations

Integrated Planning

Address nutritional and non-nutritional causes of anemia and their determinants by including interventions with an effect of anemia in national health, education, agriculture and development plans.

Photo credit: United Nations

Multi-Sectoral Approach

Use a multi-sectoral approach to anemia prevention and control by ensuring that development policies and programs beyond the health sector include nutrition and other major causes of anemia relevant to the country context.

Photo credit: Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

Strengthen Health Systems

Provide hospital and health facilities-based capacity for anemia prevention and treatment by supporting prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation (daily or intermittent) as part of routine prenatal care.

Photo credit: United Nations

Community Support

Raise awareness of the value of iron supplementation in women of reproductive age by supporting community mobilization and social marketing strategies.


Anemia Resources

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