Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Is the future of India based on widespread malnutritioned children in the slums?

A walk in Delhi slums and various underprivileged villages in Delhi reveals the level of malnutrition children have to live with. The glitz and glamour of India’s capital, which is incidentally world’s fastest growing metropolis, evaporates when you look at a child’s skinny limb with pot-belly. As per claims by present and past governments in Delhi, soon itDelhi will be referred to as India’s first ‘smart city’. But tit will also be world’s first smart city home to 66% children in the slums with malnutrition. 33% of these children fall in the Severely Acute Malnutrition category! Smart?.

Malnutrition in children is one of the most important issues which has sadly not yet become matter of concern in the city let alone a national campaign . Even though PM Modi has raised critical issues and drawn attention of the people towards them, including that of saving girl child, malnutrition remains an ignored topic from national conscience. Shockingly, almost half of malnutrition children on the planet live in India! Delhi has a significant number of children with malnutrition. Improving situation in Delhi can become a national model to look upto. Delhi must take this issue seriously and adopt strategies to deal with it.

The gravity of the situation needs to be examined by the authorities. Malnutrition is a major reason behind high dropout rates in schools.

Delhi’s Kathputli Colony, near Shadipur, has a huge slum settlement. As you enter the colony, you can see skinny children playing near heaps of garbage. Quite a few of them have disproportional pot-bellies, making it difficult for them to carry their own bodies. Entering the colony exposes more problems the slum faces. The water which is used for cooking food is not something people becoming part of ‘digital India’ will ever allow their families to consume. This class division is serious- and the lower class gets filth..

The huge economic disparity forces the families in slums to access cheaper food with low nutritional value. Fast food, including the banned Maggi, is available easily in most of the colonies. Lack of nourishment hampers the development of child’s brain, which is crucial in the early years of a child. Even though government is running various programmes, including the mid-day-meal programme in government schools, which entitles the students to nutritional food by the school authorities, malnutrition remains a big challenge for the government to eliminate. There is a need for the Government to rething its strategy.

Lack of community awareness and various socio-culture practices like early marriage and gender discrimination contribute to malnutrition in children. According to one of the reports by Child Rights and You (CRY) overall malnutrition is higher in girls (38%) compared to boys (34%). Also, 52% of the children in Delhi slums and unauthorised colonies defecate in the open- making them more prone to other diseases. In most of the cases, both the parents of a child are working (especially in low-income groups), thus the child is not looked after properly, making them vulnerable to malnutrition. There are no nurseries in the slums to look after children when parents are away working.

India has fought with Polio in the past, making itself a Polio-free nation. It has fought other health issues. A renewed strategy with a a strong honest political will power can certainly eliminate malnutrition from the country. The future of India cannot be built on the basis of malnutritioned children of today.

This article was first published by on July 5, 2015

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