Schools grappling with shortage of iron tablets

Health: Schools in Tsirang are getting inadequate supply of iron tablets, resulting in irregular distribution.

Although no major cases of anemia have been reported, school health coordinators say that a systematic flow of supply to schools is necessary.

Phuentenchu Primary School in Tsirang received iron tablet supply only last week.  The school has about 180 students. The school has not distributed iron tablets for last two months.

Health coordinator of the school, Hayimu Tamang, said that after numerous requisitions, the school got 1,000 tablets from the Basic Health Unit (BHU).

“I was told that there is acute shortage of iron tablets,” he said. “This stock will be exhausted within a month or two. I don’t know from where to arrange the tablets after that.”

Mendrelgang Central School, too, received only limited stock of iron tablets. Until last year, the school provided iron tablets to both boys and girls from classes PP to VI, and to only female students from classes VII to X. Because of the shortage, the school has stopped providing the tablets to primary students because priority is given to menstruating female students, Mani Raj Thapa said.

“I just have about 1,000 tablets for about 300 female students,” he said. “ BHU too is running short of iron tablets.”

Health coordinators of Damphu Lower Secondary School raised the issue during the central regional health coordination meeting yesterday in Tsirang. The meeting is being attended by dzongkhag health officers, medical officers and health workers of Tsirang, Dagana, Zhemgang, Trongsa, Bumthang and Sarpang.

Damphu LSS has not received its first phase of Vitamin A supplement. Irregular iron tablet supply is not a new issue in the school.

Senior officials from health ministry said that the ministry is yet to decide whether distributing iron tablets in schools should be continued. The system was introduced sometime in 2004.

However, procurement officer with the medical supplies and health infrastructure department, Pema Wangchuk, said that the department does not receive supply orders together, and so the delay. He added that the department has issued a circular to all dzongkhag education officers that quantitative requirement be submitted to the district hospital annually.

“This has never happened, which is why there is shortage of iron tablet supply in schools,” said Pema Wangchuk. “We’re currently supplying from our buffer stock.”

Pema Wangchuk said that unless there is proper coordination between dzongkhag education officers and health officials, irregular supply of iron tablets will continue. “This is an issue common in schools across the country,” he added.

The three-day meeting ends tomorrow.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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