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Mon. Dec 5th, 2022
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A study probing the high prevalence of anaemia among women in West Bengal (64%) compared to Bangladesh (41%) has suggested that higher use of sterilisation as a method of contraception and higher levels of open defecation in West Bengal could be contributing factors and not just diets.
The study noted that over a whole decade, there was a drop of a mere 0. 7 percentage points in the prevalence of anaemia when considering only Hindus and Muslims in West Bengal (from 62. 5% in 2005-2006 to 61. 8% in 2015-2016), while the same communities in Bangladesh witnessed a yearly reduction in the prevalence of anaemia by 1. 1 percentage points.
The level of open defecation in West Bengal is 29% compared to 4% in Bangladesh and the proportion of women using sterilisation as a method of contraception was 26% in West Bengal and just 5% in Bangladesh. Female sterilisation carries the risk of women developing frequent menstrual bleeding or heavy and prolonged bleeding and an irregular menstrual cycle that triggers anaemia.
Using groundwater (tube well or well) for drinking was amajor risk factor for anaemia in both Bengals compared to women who used distributed water (tank, tap, and piped water). The paper emphasised the correlation between drinking groundwater and anaemia. Previous studies have demonstrated that exposure to arsenic and fluoride-contaminated drinking water increases the risk of anaemia. In countries like India and Bangladesh, most people drink water directly collected from tube wells or wells without purification, increasing the risk of drinking contaminated water.
“Across categories, anaemia is more prevalent in West Bengal than in Bangladesh and that could be due to food consumption patterns that are significantly different in the two places, like the greater consumption of non-vegetarian food in Bangladesh,” explained one of the study authors, Dr Aparajita Chattopadhyay of the Department of Population & Development in the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. The NFHS surveys too are carried out by IIPS.
The study used data from the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 2015–16 and from the Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey, 2011, for anaemia and associated risk factors. The 2011 survey is the latest survey where information on anaemia is available in Bangladesh. The study restricted the sample to two religious groups — Hindu and Muslim — focusing on non-pregnant women.
Bangladesh had more illiterate women (57%) than West Bengal (44%). “However, it is interesting to note that Bangladesh had an improved households’ (HHs) wealth score and the proportion of rich households was higher in Bangladesh (45% vs 23%), while that of poor households was more in West Bengal (55 vs 36%). ”
The highest odds of anaemia were observed among Hindu women in both Bengals. However, within the Hindu group, the probability of being anaemic was higher in West Bengal. Even among Muslims, anaemia was more prevalent in West Bengal than in Bangladesh.

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