Have you ever felt extremely happy when someone tells you that you have lost weight. I personally have been struggling to lose my extra pounds and have never given a thought to what a blessing it is to have a full healthy meal available whenever I want. It is difficult for overnourished people like myself to understand the plight of malnutrition. In my continued research on the problems faced by the children of India, malnutrition was a major problem. It was not only a problem in itself but also the root of many other problems.One in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India.
The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year – four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Every day, 1,000 Indian children die because of diarrhoea alone. According to the 1991 census of India, it has around 150 million children, constituting 17.5% of India’s population, who are below the age of 6 years.
Malnutrition in children is not affected by food intake alone; it is also influenced by access to health services, quality of care for the child and pregnant mother as well as good hygiene practices. Girls are more at risk of malnutrition than boys because of their lower social status. Malnutrition in early childhood has serious, long-term consequences because it impedes motor, sensory, cognitive, social and emotional development. Malnourished children are less likely to perform well in school and more likely to grow into malnourished adults, at greater risk of disease and early death. Around one-third of all adult women are underweight. Inadequate care of women and girls, especially during pregnancy, results in low- birthweight babies. Nearly 30 per cent of all newborns have a low birth weight, making them vulnerable to further malnutrition and disease.Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also affect children’s survival and development.
One of the major causes for malnutrition in India is gender inequality. Due to the low social status of Indian women, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. Women who suffer malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. In India, mothers generally lack proper knowledge in feeding children. Consequently, newborn infants are unable to get adequate amount of nutrition from their mothers.
Subodh Varma, writing in The Times of India, states that on the Global Hunger Index India is on place 67 among the 80 nations having the worst hunger situation which is worse than nations such as North Korea or Sudan. 25% of all hungry people worldwide live in India. Since 1990 there has been some improvements for children but the proportion of hungry in the population has increased. In India 44% of children under the age of 5 are underweight. 72% of infants and 52% of married women have anaemia. Research has conclusively shown that malnutrition during pregnancy causes the child to have increased risk of future diseases, physical retardation, and reduced cognitive abilities.
There are many government and non-government institutes working towards reducing these alarming numbers. We must work together to spread awareness among parents regarding the the right kind of nutrition that needs for children, we must make people in rural and illiterate areas aware of the facilities they can avail to, we must make sure that the new policies introduced by the government are implemented efficiently. We have a lot to be grateful about, its about time we share our blessings with others.
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