India has the largest number of anaemic married women and children, according to UNICEF.
"There is more than one reason for Indian women and children being anaemic. Low social status of women, poor food quality, high cost of healthcare facilities and even some genetic problems are responsible for the problem," UNICEF India Child Health and Nutrition chief Werner Schultink told reporters in Delhi on Wednesday.
According to the National Family Health Survey-111, over 56.2 per cent married women in the age group between 15 and 49 were anaemic in 2006 as against 51.8 per cent in 1999.
The survey, which was published jointly with the United Nations Population Fund, Britain's Department of International Development and Avahan, an initiative of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has said that 79.1 per cent of children between the ages of 3 to 6 years were anaemic in 2006 as against 74.2 per cent in 1999.
Schultink said in the US and Europe, 20 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. "Even in Indonesia, the anaemia rate among women is 30 to 40 per cent. The NFHS data suggests the rate of anaemia has gone up since 1999 in India," he said.
"We have to look at the various factors behind this phenomena. It could be diet or high infection rate," he added.
He said in areas where malaria is most prevalent, anaemia could be one of the contributory factors. "The prevention and cure of infection is important," Schultink said.