By Manoj Sharma
In Shining India, over 5000 children die every day from hunger and malnutrition.
The hungry future
The startling figure still resonates in my memory. Some 25 years back, I remember reading a report in one of the major dailies which said that some 5,000 children die every day in India. Today morning, my attention therefore was automatically drawn to a news report: 1.83 million children die before fifth birthday every year: Report (Indian Express, Sept 8, 2010).
I immediately took out a pen and paper to find out the per day child mortality rate. I wanted to know whether the child mortality rate has come down, and by how much, in the last 25 years or so. My disappointment has grown. The calculations shows that every day 5,013 children are succumbing to malnutrition. Given that a half of all children in India are under-nourished as per the National Family Health Survey III (2005-06), of which over 5,000 die every day I think every Indian needs to hang his/her head in shame.
Globally, 14,600 children die every day. This means that India alone has the dubious distinction of having more than a third of the world’s child mortality. This is ironically happening at a time when food is rotting in the godowns.Yes, India is surely an emerging economic superpower, but building an Empire over hungry stomachs! Mera Bharat Mahaan!! A new global report “A fair Chance at Life” by the international child rights organisation Save the Children is not only a damming indictment of the supplementary nutrition programmes that have been running for several decades now, but also is an eye-opener in many ways.
While it tells us how hollow the global claims under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are, nationally it shows us the stark hidden realities. A country which doesn’t get tired of patting itself in the back for creating an impressive list of 50 billionaires, and off and on does bask under the fictitious glow of Shining India, the dark underbelly remains deliberately hidden from the media glare.Let us look at what the report says: “Of the 26 million children born in India every year, approximately 1.83 million died before their fifth birthday. “What these aggregate figures do not reveal are the huge inequities in mortality rates across the country, within States and between them, as well as between children in urban and rural areas.”Half of these children actually die within a month of being born. In other words, nearly 2,500 children of those who die have not even survived for more than a month. This is an indication of not only the inability of the parents to provide adequate nutrition to their new born, but more than that is a reflection of the impoverished condition of the especially the mother.
Does it not tell us to what extent poverty and hunger prevails in this country? Do we need to still work out more effective parameters to measure hunger and malnutrition? Do we really need to find a new estimate of people living below the poverty line (BPL)?
But Who Cares!!!
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