By Pramita Bose
No child is born to die. It is their birthright to seek shelter, obtain proper nourishment and receive an all-round, well-grounded education from the country that it is born in. But sadly enough, nearly two million (20 lakhs) infants out of the total 26 million (2.6 crores) babies that are born in India perish every year before their fifth birthday and a significant number within a month of being born. Another startling figure suggests that India ranks 76th among 80 “less developed” or “mid-income countries” in the world. Also in India, annually, one child in every 15 seconds dies mostly due to easily preventable or treatable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea. More such shocking cases can be cited to show the deplorable conditions of child and women healthcare in India. And the graph is always on the rise.
The globally distinguished NGO Save the Children’s 13th annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report focuses on nutrition as one of the key factors in determining mothers’ and their children’s well-being. Incidentally, the numbers mentioned above are drawn from the report. But those only represent an aggregate figure which conceals a huge lacuna — i.e. a divide of inequality — in the nation-wide mortality rates lying within the states and between them or between the kids from the urban and rural sectors or from the upper caste and lower caste families and from the tribal and non-tribal communities. It is crucial to note that mortality rates considerably vary in direct relation to maternal education, wealth, religion, caste-system and tribal ethos. The fact is undeniable that India is home to a one-third of the world’s undernourished children. The issue of underweight children is particularly serious among rustic and city-centric poor, including the backward tribals, Muslim communities and the dalit populace. Despite having grown enormously with a promise to emerge as a superpower in the past 25 years, India still unfortunately suffers from an unavoidable malnutrition curse which is an eyesore on its “shining” face. Though statistics reveal that the plaguing problem has shown some signs of a relieving dip from a dismally high level, which is but a slow improvement.
Indrani Sarkar, campaign and communication co-ordinator of Save the Children projects, echoes the pathetic position of India on a global level going by the recently produced 13th report. “It’s a shame on us as our nation is called a motherland and our women epitomise the values of our country. Are we doing enough to enable them to bring a healthy baby into this world? It should be remembered that a baby girl today will grow into someone’s daughter tomorrow and then become a mother to procreate the future progeny into this society. If the present is so bleak and seems at stake then what about the impending scenario in future?” she wonders.
“It is true that in order to formulate such drives, campaigns or consciousness programmes, we need to pump in and generate a fair amount of funds for sponsorship. And it is often argued that where will the money be flowed in to spend at large on such welfare projects. Now the question is if this is the sole reason that is stopping India from improving the health conditions of its backward, regions then what about the status of the so-called economically inferior countries whose statistics reveal that they are far better off,” she debates.
Jatin Mondar, the state (West Bengal) programme manager of Save the Children, informs: “We are now functional at 12 Indian provinces ranging from Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Orissa, U.P. and Jharkhand.”
(Courtesy: The Asian Age)