If I ask, what the most painful thing in life is, there will be different answers from different people, based on their experiences. But, most of us will agree that seeing the death of a child in front of our eyes, especially at a young age, is among the worst pains. We pray that even an enemy does not go through pains like that.
Unfortunately, in our country, millions of parents go through the pain of losing a child every day, because of the failure of our system. After looking at recent reports on children’s health, and the state of malnutrition across the globe, I think India is one of the worst places to be born.
Our country ranks 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI); an annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe (previously, the International Food and Policy Research Institute was a co-publisher).
One worrying trend is that our country is following a downward trajectory in the Global Hunger Index. We have slipped from 55 in 2014, to 102 in 2019; this is even below our neighbouring countries, like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
We have topped the list in the ‘child wasting rate’; the rate has increased from 16.5 per cent in the 2008-2012 period, to 20.8 percent in 2014-2018. Child wasting refers to the children under the age of five, who are wasted – this includes those who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
According to the GHI report, “India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 per cent, the highest for any country in this report”.
We are talking about becoming a developed country in the coming decade, our leaders dream of a 5 trillion dollar economy, but today, our children are dying. It is shameful for us, that in some parameters, (i.e. child wasting), we have performed even worse than conflict-ridden countries like Yemen, or Djibouti. And in the coming years, it is going to be even more challenging to tackle these issues, with climate change coming into play.
Another report, The State of the World’s Children by UNICEF (United Nations international children’s emergency fund), highlights that 69% of children, under 5 years of age died due to malnutrition in India. Every second child in this age group is suffering from some form of malnutrition. Although the mortality rate and malnutrition have been decreasing in our country, this is at a snail’s pace.
There are many policies in place, like the Mid-day meal, and the National Children Policy for child development. But the GHI report makes it clear, that these policies have not yielded the desired results. We need to take more stringent and sincere measures to improve the condition of children in our country. We should learn from our neighbouring countries, like Bangladesh and Nepal, whose policies have been lauded in the GHI report.
Even the government scheme, Poshan Abhiyan got appreciation in the UNICEF report, and if it implemented well, it has the potential to bring change in the lives of children in our country. As a concerned citizen, I hope that Poshan Abhiyan does not end up like many other schemes, successful on paper, and absent on the ground. Because on paper, we are free from open defection, we have electricity in every village, but in reality, we all know the situation is different.