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World Children's Day: Every Newborn Has a Right to Survive, Thrive and Live a Life of Dignity

Representative image.

Representative image.

In India, 69 percent of deaths of children under five years of age is caused by malnutrition. Every second child in India is affected by some form of malnutrition, with 38 percent undernutrition (46.6 million) among the children under the age of five.

By Dr Shoba Suri and Basanta Kumar Kar

The invisible novel coronavirus has engulfed the universe, bringing with it disruptions, lockdowns, curfews, morbidity and mortality with women and children being the hardest hit. Yet, our resolve to bring 'Right to Nutrition,' that is inherent in ‘Right to Life’, has only multiplied because of the central role it plays for people to survive and thrive.

Two out of three child deaths are due to malnutrition

In India, 69 percent of deaths of children under five years of age are caused by malnutrition. Every second child in India is affected by some form of malnutrition, with 38 percent undernutrition (46.6 million) among the children under the age of five. Stunting in the first 1000 days is irreversible leading to lifelong consequences. More than half (58.4 per cent) the children under the age of five are anaemic, which is hugely compounding the problem of the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition leading to impaired immunity, morbidity and mortality.

Reported deaths of children due to malnutrition or with malnutrition as an underlying cause in Nagada, Palghar, Shoepur, Muzaffarpur and Jharkhand haunt us all around. The pandemic infection, air pollution and other vector-borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have further complicated children’s ability to survive and thrive in India We all have a responsibility to prevent these avoidable and invisible deaths and protect the first one thousand days of life - the first window of opportunity.

Timely complementary feeding has shown a declining trend in the past decade from 52.6 to 42.7 percent, with only 9.6 percent receiving an adequate diet. Palghar, Shoepur, Muzaffarpur and Jharkhand mostly consume grains from the seven food groups, followed by dairy products with the lowest quantity of consumption being fruits and vegetables. The diversity in the diet tends to change with wealth quintile of household and mother’s educational status. The outcome of the malnutrition is deeply unfair.

India’s resolve - Let us build on what we have

Being a signatory to the UNCRC, India guarantees every child’s ‘right to survival’. The Indian Constitution and Food Law(s) provide safeguards to bring about good nutrition and a life with dignity. India’s POSHAN Abhiyaan - Prime Minister’s Scheme for Holistic Nourishment— aims at reducing stunting, under-nutrition, low birth weight (among young children) and anaemia (among young children, women, adolescent girls) by 2 percent for the first three indicators and 3 percent per annum for the last indicator by 2022. This indicates a strong political and policy will for every child to utilise the full human capital potential.

Time to Build a New World order – Right to Survive and Thrive

Let first one thousand days of life get a chance to unleash the potential of the child to live a life with dignity. The role of child nutrition, and quality care of children - specifically sick and newborn and care during pregnancy - assume great significance.

Let each day of the year be ‘Children’s Day’, where each child will realise their full potential and get a safe place to survive and thrive. It is the time for a resolve to build a New World Order that can provide space and opportunity for every child to exercise their Right to Survive and Thrive - a world free from hunger and malnutrition with just and equitable governance every child needs today.

Dr Shoba Suri, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.

Mr Basanta Kumar Kar, International Development Professional, Recipient of the Global Nutrition Leadership and Transform Nutrition Champion Award. He was recognized as a Hero of the Decade in India.


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