By Impuri Ngayawon:
“My parents migrated last month to Hyderabad in search of jobs. I bring water home as soon as I get up, cook food for my old grandfather and two younger siblings, and then go to school. Once I come back, I wash, clean up and go to bed late,” says 13-year-old Mounika from Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. Mounika is just one among the millions of children affected by drought, in 266 districts spread across 11 states in the country. According to an analysis by World Vision India drought severely affects the well-being of children in terms of their health, education and protection. Apart from an analysis on the impact, the NGO has also proposed specific recommendations to the government to ensure that children remain safe, healthy and in school during drought.
“In the last 10 years, India as a country has made significant progress in improving the nutrition status of children. But, the rates of undernutrition in many of the drought-affected states are already above the national average. In a drought context, the risk of undoing the good work done is extremely high,” said Cherian Thomas, National Director, World Vision India. “Mitigating effects of climate change is something that requires concerted international efforts. On the other hand, what could be done as a country is to ensure that the precious human capital of the country is allowed to grow and thrive. When children are affected and stunted in different ways, it propagates opportunities for furthering inequalities in an already unfair scenario for the underprivileged,” he added.
Disruption in education, heading households, working after school hours in exploitative conditions, migrating for cheap labour, lack of adequate food, water-borne diseases, homeless in cities are some of the common trends observed by the NGO according to the report. In a drought context, Anganwadi centres and mid-day meals have proved to be the most important points of prevention of malnutrition and consequent vulnerability to diseases, and the only safeguard for children from starvation.
The season forces children to drop out of school to migrate with parents or work in their own communities to add to family income or work soon after school without any time for learning. While older children in the age group 10 – 14 are left behind in the village to take care of the old grandparents, younger children often migrate with the parents who are mostly employed in construction work or at brick kilns. Children left behind by parents are juggling between managing the household work, care for elderly and school. In many instances, children become either breadwinners or homemakers or both, in the absence of adults at home. Caste discrimination also denies children access to the minimal water sources available in many areas.
Note: World Vision India has started its relief operations. World Vision India will focus on the 12 districts where we have our presence in drought-hit states of MP, UP, Maharashtra, AP, Telangana and Odisha. We would then scale up the relief to Marathwada & Bundelkhand regions. You can extend support here.
This article has also been published here.