New Delhi: Underlining the need for adequate nutrition and a positive, caring environment at home for children, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said a good foundation in the early years gives the next generation a better start. He also said for a healthy development, children should grow up in an environment where their emotional, social, educational and other needs are fully met.
Naidu made these remarks at the release of a report, “The State of Young Child in India”, which is an account of the challenges related to early child development in India. Educated and healthy people with a good foundation in the early years contribute to the financial and social wealth of their societies, the vice president noted.
Pointing out that poor nutrition hampers physical as well as intellectual development of children, Naidu said it would make them vulnerable to illness and affect their performance in school. “We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives,” he said. Quoting from the report, the vice president said of the 159 million children aged below 6 years in India, 21 per cent are undernourished, 36 per cent are underweight and 38 per cent do not receive full immunisation. “These figures underline the crucial importance to invest in early childhood for realising the full potential in later years,” he stressed.
Naidu said it was important for all stakeholders, including the government, policy makers and civil society organisations, to intensify their efforts in ensuring the well-being of the young child through better policies and effective interventions. He also emphasised the need for uplift of the last man in the true spirit of “antyodaya”, as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhyay. He said there was a need for a well-strategised collective action on multiple fronts to ensure well-being of young children in the country to take full advantage of the demographic dividends.
“It is estimated that early childhood stunting affects nearly one in four children younger than five globally due to lack of nutrition…under-nutrition and poor sanitation can lead to developmental delays and a lack of progress in school. For a country, poor early childhood development could mean economic loss. We need to understand the crucial importance of this aspect of national development and take effective steps to ensure all children have a healthy start to their lives,” he told the gathering. The report, Naidu said, also pointed to the insurmountable evidence of the huge returns on investment in early childhood development (ECD) at the individual, household and country levels. Proper nutrition, stimulation and care during the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to the second birthday) has a profound impact on the child’s ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty, and in the process shape society’s long-term stability and prosperity, he said citing the findings.
Based on ranking and values on the Young Child Outcome Index (YCOI), the report named Kerala, Goa, Tripura and Tamil Nadu to be among the top performers, while eight states — Assam, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — with scores below the national average lagged behind, he pointed out. The report has been prepared by Mobile Creches, a policy advocacy organisation which works with the underprivileged children across India.
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