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article imageIndia's Shame: Children Starving to Death

By KJ Mullins     May 25, 2007 in Health
Their skin is taunt, bones visible. They are 46% of the children living in India. Starving in a country that is seeing an economy boom.
UNICEF is now getting their plight out in the open. Hopefully it will spark a reversal of these young ones fate.
Some of the States in India have a much higher rate of childhood malnutrition. 60% of the children in Madhya Pradesh suffer.
As UNICEF says they are fading away.
It's shameful in a country where the economy has been growing an average of 8.5 percent for the past five years.
For children there has been little effect of that growth. For the past seven years there has been little to no change in child mortality, underweight children and other basic health indicators.
Millions in the country survive on the basics; wheat, lentils and rice. Time has proven that it's simply not enough to sustain a child.
"It's shameful to have India become a trillion-dollar economy and to have nearly 50 percent of the children hungry," pediatrician Vandana Prasad, a member of the People's Health Movement.
There are some rays of hope though. The government has implemented "anganwadis", child care centres for youngsters under six. Offering free noon meals for all children under six, the Supreme Court is trying to get some help out there.
Sadly the noon meal can be sparse. Some bread and a small portion of potatoes at some of the centres.
"The government only gives two rupees (five cents) per child. What can you do with such small funds. What they get is a disgrace," said an aid worker who asked not to be identified.
The problem isn't just with the children. The mothers are generally just as malnourished. Their babies are born already suffering from being underweight and the mothers are unable to produce sufficient qualities of milk because of their own suffering. It's a vicious circle.
With 40 percent of India's population under 18, the malnutrition figures are significant for India's future. Some studies suggest widespread malnutrition lops two to four percentage points off potential economic growth.
The worst part of this epidemic is that children who are deprived nutrients have stunted growth. Both mentally and physically.
The government is starting to try to fix the problem, but how many more will die before the bandaid is a real solution.
More about Malnutrition, India children, Deaths rising
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