Thursday, November 29, 2018

Robbing children's futures

A major study published on Thursday warned of a malnutrition crisis in almost every country in the world.

Worldwide, 150.8 million children are stunted and 50.5 million are "wasted", the report said. Of the three countries that are home to almost half (47.2 percent) of all stunted children, two are in Asia: India (46.6 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million).

In India, forty-six million children (almost a third of the global total) are stunted because of malnutrition and 25.5 million more are defined as "wasted" - meaning they do not weigh enough for their height. In India, high rates of malnutrition lead to anaemia, low birth rates, and delayed development - perpetuated from generation to generation. India is the world's fastest-growing major economy and during the last two decades has recorded economic expansion that helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. But it still remains a deeply stratified society with extreme inequality between its rich and poor.

Dr Basanta Kumar Kar - who is part of a health committee at NITI Aayog, India's government think-tank - said, "Malnutrition is linked to mortality, morbidity, brain/cognitive development, and overall physical growth of a child. A malnourished child is vulnerable to infections and many life-threating diseases." 

"The uncomfortable question is not so much 'why are things so bad?' but 'why are things not better when we know so much more than before?'" said Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the report and director of the Centre for Food Policy.

The Global Nutrition Report 2018 found while malnutrition rates are falling globally, their rate of decrease is not fast enough to meet the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. India is not set to meet any of them, the report said. Progress on tackling malnutrition is "simply not good enough", according to the report. 

Nikhil Day, at Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a peasant and workers' organisation in the western state of Rajasthan, expressed alarm at Thursday's report. "We are constantly shocked and disgraced by reports like these. In a country like India - where there is so much emphasis on economic growth rates - our apathy for malnutrition and food security is telling. It robs children of their future and countries of their humanity. This should be a national priority," he said.

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