Mumbai: It is Children's Day today. As the nation celebrates the day, there is a need to analyse the real state of affairs that the children in the country face.
In a picture that has not been a reassuring one, 13 lakh children die every year in the country from completely preventable diseases. Malnutrition in Indian children is worse than sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and even Afghanistan. More than 50 per cent of children under 5 are stunted in growth.
Two year old Shlok is a picture of health now. But till the 5th month after his birth, he was severely malnourished. His mother recalls, his hair was patchy and eyes sunken and his cries feeble.
"When we went for his third month vaccination, the doctor couldn't inject him because his body had no flesh. He was all bones," his mother Sanika Puradhkar said.
Shlok was lucky to survive after he was brought to a free clinic run by the Foundation for Mother and Child Health. In the last 8 years, the clinic has treated over 2000 under-nourished children.
As per reports, one in four among the world's malnourished children belong to India. Stunted growth in childhood has long term ramifications as the survivors grow up into shorter adults.
Reports suggest that 60 million children are underweight in India, 75 per cent children are anemic and 60 per cent are deficient in Vitamin A. UNICEF states that immunization saves 4 lakh children under 5 from preventable deaths every year.
"Unfortunately, malnutrition is very rarely attributed as a cause for death in India. Child who is severely malnourished has a 9 times more risk of getting pneumonia and diarrhoea and it can be fatal for them as well," Executive Director Foundation for Mother and Child Health Piyasree Mukhrejee said.
Immediate steps like expansion of school feeding programmes and better midday meal schemes are the need of the hour to save these precious lives.
"These are diseases for which low cost interventions are available for several years. Low cost breast feeding. Immunization. Need to upscale the coverage with these vaccines," Head Indian Academy of Pediatrics, Mumbai Dr Vijay Yewale said.