India has been combating several issues like illiteracy, unemployment, child marriage and infant mortality rate since independence. One other burning issue with which India needs to be at war is thegave problem of malnutrition. Despite a staggering 50% increase in India’s GDP since the year 1991, about 35% of the world’s undernourished children are from India. It’s baffling to note that about 50% of them, agedunder 3, are physically weak and weighmuch lesser than normal weight standards for their age.India is also home to over 40 million stunted children and a shocking 17 million still suffer from acute malnutrition. India has one of the world’s highest demographics of children suffering from malnutrition – said to be double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences.
It is a known fact that the prime causes of malnutrition among children include inadequate diet, recurring infections and a low level of awareness. It has beenstarkly established that 50% of the problems stem from infections that are caused due to unclean water and poor sanitation practices. This is also the main reason diarrhoea isso rampant in the country and leads to high child mortality in the country.
Some facts on malnutrition in India
• A shocking 38.4% of children aged less than three havea stunted growth and 46% are underweight ordangerously thin.
• Wasting, defined as extremely low weight in children affects about 19% of children aged under 3
• About 79% childrenaged under three suffer from anaemia. The percentage of affected children goes up in rural areas where mothers are not educated.Insufficient diet, poor hygiene and limited availability of iron supplementationare the prime reasons behind this.
• In urban areas, less than 46% are fed breast milk only for the first few months after birth.
• A mere 44% of breastfeeding infants are fed as recommended per day and only 36% are fed food as recommended by medical professionals to ensure the right diversity in their overall diet.
• Only 25% children aged between 6-35 months are given vitamin A supplements as per recommendations. The Indian Government recommends 2 doses in a year for children aged 6-59 months.
Malnutrition must be first understood in a broad dimension to be tackled in the right manner and spirit.The issue of malnutritionis like the tip of aniceberg, it’s other underlying social issues like poverty,lack of education, abysmal availability of nutritious food, clean water and primary healthcarewhich are at play here. The right approach to eliminate malnutrition calls for prevention of different illnesses, spreading awareness of maintaining good hygiene and right dietary practices, providing food security to children and make available sufficient treatment facilities.
The role of NGOs in fighting malnutrition
Child rights organisations like Save the Children are working meticulously to address the problem of malnutrition among children in India. The NGO has been taking drastic steps to eradicate this menace in the country by devising and executing projects aimed at improving the nutrition status of children coming from most backward communities of India.
Children coming from impoverished families are provided nutrition mix along with other healthcare services, facilitated by the means of health workers trained by the NGO. Extensive work is being done by Save the Children to spread awareness among communities (mothers, elders of the family, school teachers, etc.) and malnourished children are being mobilised to government healthcare centres where they can get quality treatment. Adding impetus to this are robust Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes in at least five states of India which are improving community hygiene and sanitation to prevent diarrhoea – a leading cause of malnutrition. In 2015, Save the Children helped cure over 4000 children inflicted with malnutrition.
While government agencies are working with all their might to fight malnutrition, NGOs too are playing a key role in giving lakhs of children the nutrition they deserve. The problem of malnutrition in India is severe. Work by all stakeholders at various levels to be addressed efficiently. Donate to NGO to help children get a healthy start in life. You can be a ray of hope for children and help them provide a happier and healthier tomorrow.