India’s children face some of the harshest conditions anywhere in the world. They suffer from the mistakes of their parents, the ignorance of an apathetic system, and the lack of a proactive support system. These circumstances, combined with existing social problems, rob children of the opportunities they deserve to climb out of their lives of misery. These problems must be examined openly, so that all stakeholders who support an NGO or charity can provide unique perspectives to tackle them.
Today, India ranks behind Haiti, Burkina Faso and Bangladesh in terms of malnutrition. The condition is so bad that most of the children in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh are stunted. India ranked among African countries like Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia on the 2014 Global Nutrition Report. This despite spending billions on child nutrition programmes over last few decades. People preferring carbohydrates over protein or fat and vegetarians avoiding egg and meat also add to the problem of malnutrition among kids.
Stunted growth in children is an outcome of severe malnutrition during the most crucial times of early childhood. The National Family Health Survey 2006 estimated that 61 million Indian children had stunted growth and another 53 million were underweight. Apart from starvation, many additional factors also contribute to stunting – including choice of a carbohydrate-rich diet over a protein-rich one, poor maternal health during pregnancy and lack of proper sanitation. It’s not a standalone issue but acts as a marker for many developmental issues.
Despite decades of social reforms, Child labour still flourishes in our cities and villages. Caught between the planes of India’s poverty prism, kids who are already far removed from an inadequate educational system, get further caught in the grips of child labour. Parents also force their kids into work to earn for their families. It’s also the only survival mode for children who are homeless or abandoned. Over 10 million children are working in labour intensive fields in our country.
Forced begging is a multi-million rupee underground industry in our country which abuses over 3 lakh children. They use all means to force the children to beg from drug addiction to mental, physical and sexual violence. According to the National Humans Rights Commission, these cartels are behind the abduction of over 40,000 children in India every year. Children are regularly hurt and even maimed to make them more pitiable and are usually given targets to meet during their begging trips.
Despite being easily preventable, diarrhoea is one of the India’s biggest killers of children under 5. Along with poor access to nutritious clean food and water, it is also linked to poor hygiene. Diarrhoea also is known to trigger mineral depletion and loss of appetite. India finds prominent mention in the annual globally tally of deaths of children under the age of 5. For every 1,000 live births, 42 die, and every 20 seconds a child dies from preventable causes like pneumonia, preterm and birth complications, newborn infections, diarrhoea and malaria.
While these facts may make you believe that the rescue and rehabilitation of India’s at-risk children is difficult, the truth is that civil society has become a powerful change agent for them. The sustained campaigns of NGOs like Save the Children, as well as swift intervention in emergency situations like natural calamities, has given them a new hope. You can donate to NGO fundraising in India to ensure that every child, irrespective of their background, can find the strength to rise up and defy the odds.