Public Health Nutrition

Special Groups

Maternal anaemia in West and Central Africa: time for urgent action

Mohamed Ag Ayoyaa1 c1, Mohamed Ag Bendecha2, Noel Marie Zagréa3 and Félicité Tchibindata4

a1 Nutrition Section, UNICEF Haiti Country Office, Minustah Log Base, New Port-au-Prince, Haiti

a2 Child Survival and Development Section, UNICEF Country Office, Nouakchott, Mauritania

a3 UNICEF Asia-Pacific Shared Services Centre, Bangkok, Thailand

a4 Child Survival and Development Section, UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Dakar-Yoff, Senegal


Objective To review the prevalence, severity and determinants of anaemia among women in West and Central Africa (WCA) and raise awareness among policy makers and programme planners in the region.

Design Systematic descriptive review of data in the public domain of the ORC Macro MEASURE Demographic and Health Surveys, national nutrition surveys, oral and technical communications at regional meetings, studies published in scientific journals, and WHO and UNICEF databases.

Setting West and Central Africa region.

Subjects Women of childbearing age.

Results The prevalence of anaemia among pregnant and non-pregnant women is higher than 50 % and 40 %, respectively, in all countries. Within countries, this prevalence varies by living setting (rural v. urban), women's age and education. Across countries, socio-economic and climatic differences have no apparent association with the prevalence of anaemia among women. Several factors contribute either alone or jointly to the high rates of maternal anaemia in this region. These include widespread nutritional deficiencies; high incidence of infectious diseases; low access to and poor quality of health services; low literacy rates; ineffective design, implementation and evaluation of anaemia control programmes; and poverty.

Conclusions Addressing the multiple causes and minimizing the consequences of anaemia on maternal and child health and development in WCA require integrated multifactorial and multisectoral strategies. This also calls for unprecedented, historical and stronger political will and commitment that put adolescent girls and maternal health at the centre of the development agenda.

(Received July 03 2010)

(Accepted September 04 2011)

(Online publication October 06 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email