By Soumya Kundra:
We, the people of India boast of the rise in the standard of living that has happened over the years. The scintillating and mesmerizing malls that attract our sight, the food courts where we throng and hang out with our friends, Dominos’, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Subway and other fast food joints where we have sumptuous meals. But this picture of magnificent India is just in cities and towns. The real India comprises of people dying of hunger. The only desire they have is to fill their belly with any meal once a day. Taste, texture, flavour is not what they ask for and the worst hit of the lot are the children.
A child’s brain development, body development, everything is connected with a cord to its mother. The nutritional intake of the mother directly reflects in the child’s development. The nine, months when a woman bears a child, she provides her child with whatever nutrition she takes. The stronger the nutritive value, the better the immunity of the child. But to our dismay, the people in slums and villages lack the much required financial resources to be able to provide a healthy diet to the woman and also the hygiene that is required to raise a new born. Thus, the new born, on entering the amazing world, she/he is attacked by viruses and diseases and because of the low level of immunity; these not so deadly diseases prove to be fatal.
Thus, child malnutrition can be attributed to high levels of exposure to infection, poor infant feeding and caring practices. The most fragile age is 0-3 years, where the child’s nutrition needs maximum attention. There are some programs working to reduce the child mortality rate by providing food supplements in the poor regions, but these programs are failing in their objective because they target children above 3 years, when the malnutrition has already set in. Poor sanitation practices also trigger infection and diseases among young children.
Lack of awareness about child nutrition has led to unhealthy habits among the lactating mothers — like there are many women smoking bidis unaware of the consequences that she will have to face in future and also how it affects her child.
Alarming facts and figures– (Courtesy — Mother’s Child Nutrition Organization)
1) The UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year — four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Every day, 1,000 Indian children die because of diarrhoea alone.
2) India: In a context of unprecedented economic growth (9-10 percent annually) and national food security, Over 60 % of Indian children are wasted, stunted, underweight or a combination of the above. As a result, India ranks number 62 in the PHI (poverty and hunger index) out of a total of 81 countries.
It is high time that government and other civic agencies bring this issue into light and work towards providing every child a health to live and explore this amazing gift of god called — “life”. For that to happen – maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation should be taken care of because a person’s strata should not be the factor determining whether his/ her child will live or not.