49 per cent of the world's malnourished kids live in India: CRY

Citing cases of scores of children who are fighting undernourishment, non-government organisation Child Rights and You (CRY) and its partners on Thursday claimed that preventable malnourishment is still prevalent across the country despite scheme and plans implemented by the government.

Statistics collected from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan by CRY indicate there are “large gaps in government's programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)”.

Addressing media persons here, CRY officials claimed that more than 40 per cent of children in India are underweight, 45 per cent are stunted and 49 per cent of the world's malnourished children live in India.

Children between 0-6 years constitute 13.12 per cent of India's total population. In 2008, the country's infant mortality rate was noted at 53 per 1000 live births.

“With timely investment in terms of resources, staff and planning, these child deaths and diseases are entirely preventable,” said Yogita Verma Saighal, Director, CRY. Referring to the penetration and the efficacy of government scheme like the ICDS, CRY claims that only 33 per cent children in India have access to it.

According to CRY, in Delhi 66 per cent children (under the age of six) living in slums are malnourished. “According to a baseline survey conducted by CRY partner Alliance for People's Rights (APR), in the seven districts of Delhi that CRY has presence in, there are approximately 7,500 children between ages 0-6. According to NFHS-3, 30 per cent children are born under-weight, 63 per cent are anaemic and there is a glaring gap in the under five mortality between the urban poor (73. 6 per 1000 births) and the urban rich (41.8 per 1000 births). The AWCs in these project area communities are considered ‘useless' by residents as internal problems plague the centres, including low wages, a lack of infrastructure, unavailability of space for children to play and educational facilities are also missing….” claimed CRY.

Further, Uttar Pradesh has a child population of 29,278,2355, with 85 per cent children suffering from anaemia, 41.6 per cent are underweight, and infant mortality rate (IMR) is amongst the highest in India (677). The NGO claims Madhya Pradesh has the highest prevalence of malnourishment among children and Delhi's migrant population comprises of almost 20 per cent of the total population and 64 per cent live in resettlement colonies and slums.

“According to the survey 96 per cent of the families with malnourished children do not earn basic minimum wages,” said Ms. Verma, adding there are currently only 70 per cent of anganwadi centres (AWC) in place in comparison to the required strength and only 50 per cent children get any service under the ICDS. “For informal sector workers who have irregular incomes at level that fall below minimum wages, a working Anganwadi can be a lifesaver,” she added.

CRY has now recommended that the government should consider designing a “robust, holistic food security Act”.

The NGO has proposed: “Schemes such as the ICDS must be universalised and a transparent system instituted to fix accountability. The same goes for employment guarantee schemes and the Public Distribution system too must be universalised and take care of both food grain needs as well as other nutrition needs.”

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