Friday, May 27, 2016

The persistence of India's poverty

We read that less than a third of India’s households have convenient access to piped water, showing very little improvement since 2005. Only 2 out of 5 households have access to improved sanitation facilities and an overwhelming 44% of the population practises open defecation. In fact, India lags behind neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in improving access to sanitation and eradicating open defecation.

Child under-nutrition remains high and endemic. Roughly 2 in 5 children under the age of 5 are ‘stunted’ — that is they are shorter than the desired height for their age. While child under-nutrition in India is similar to comparable countries in South Asia, nationwide estimates hide wide disparities between states. In Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh for instance, roughly half of all children under 5 are stunted. Even relatively prosperous states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra fare poorly in this regard.

India’s infant and child mortality rates are higher than countries at comparable, or even lower, levels of per capita income. In fact, not only do Cambodia, Nicaragua and Vietnam perform better on infant and child mortality than India, but neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal do, too. This is the case despite starting out at roughly similar levels as Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal on both metrics two decades ago. And when we compare India’s infant, child and maternal mortality rates to the other BRICS nations, we find that the country has a lot of catching up to do.


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