Are Children A Priority?
|February 22, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Are Children A Priority?
India Child Malnourishment Rates Worse Than Africa
This news report comes from Alternet and the Reuters news agency.
by Nita Bhalla
India has higher levels of malnourished children than Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the Asian giant having more funds and better infrastructure to tackle the problem, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday February 21, 2007.
A recent survey by the Indian health ministry, backed by UNICEF, has found that almost 46 percent of children under the age of three are undernourished. About 35 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa region are malnourished.
“In terms of the under-nutrition levels, certainly India is at a much higher level than the average Sub-Saharan African country,” Werner Schultink, chief of child development and nutrition for UNICEF in India, told a news conference.
Countries like Ethiopia fare better than India when you look at nutrition data, he said, with between 35 to 40 percent of children in the impoverished east African country having poor diets. >
Schultink said nutrition levels in India were not so much related to lack of food as was the case in many parts of Africa, but because of the frequency and quality of food intake of children.
The lack of knowledge of mothers on how to care for sick children and poor health services were further adding to more child deaths, said other UNICEF officials.
“Contrary to what happens in Africa where there are much less resources at hand, India has a transportation network, India has a budget, India has a very strong potential to address these issues on time,” said Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s chief of health in India.
The National Family Health Survey found there was just a marginal drop in the number of underweight children compared to the same survey seven years ago when levels were recorded at around 47 percent.
The survey found that levels of anaemia in children and women had worsened compared to seven years ago — around 56 percent of women and 79 percent of children below three years old were anaemic.
UNICEF officials said there had been negligible progress in improving the immunisation of children with the survey finding nearly 44 percent of children being inoculated against illnesses such as measles and polio compared to 42 percent seven years ago.
“The survey confirms that India has done little for its children,” said Shiv Kumar, a development economist and adviser to the government.
“Despite the excellent growth record for which India is getting greater and greater appreciation, efforts are still lacking and progress has been quite tardy in terms of women and children’s health and nutrition.”
India’s GDP has been growing at over eight percent annually over the past three years.
Kumar said the findings of the survey had to be seen “as a matter of national priority and shame” for the government, with less than one percent of the national budget going towards public health spending.
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