It hardly needs reiteration that how important it is for the country's real development to have a healthy population, more particularly of women and children. We talk and promise so much on the issue of child and woman welfare and do roll out so many plans and strategies. But malnutrition and under-nutrition have not stopped taking its toll in our country.
According to an UNICEF report, one in every three malnourished children in the world, live in India. In January this year, our Prime Minister said that despite an impressive GDP growth, the level of under-nutrition was unacceptably high that he termed as a "National Shame."
Let us consider some more facts:
- About 50% of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.
- Over two million under-5 deaths take place due to under-nutrition, that is, 6000 deaths every day, or 250 deaths per hour on an average.
- The under-nutrition cases are the highest in MP, Orissa, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan.
- 74% children under three and 52% of women in India are anaemic.
- As high as 44% children under the age of five are underweight.
It is also observed during various surveys that:
- Malnutrition in early childhood has serious long term consequences, because it impedes development of vital human organs. As such, it has a lasting impact on the child's overall physical and mental development.
- Malnourished children will struggle at school and are more prone to infectious diseases including HIV.
- Most of these children come from socially-deprived and poorest communities - tribals and lower castes where illiteracy is poor and poverty relatively very high.
- Adequate nourishment of the pregnant women was found to be very crucial not only for good health of the mother but also for the child's birth and thereafter.
Thus, the million dollar question is: who will address these issues which is a blot on our economic growth theory and more importantly, why it continues to be a national shame even after 65 years of independence.
Milan K. Sinha is a freelance writer. He has worked in Banking and Insurance sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. Presently he is engaged in stress management, wellness and awareness activities besides freelance writing.