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52 per cent of slum kids in Delhi defecate in open: study

Apr 03, 2014

A new report by an NGO paints a very grim picture of nutritional status of children in India’s national capital.

New Delhi: According to a latest report released by an Indian NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY), 52 per cent of the children living in Delhi slums and unauthorised colonies defecate in the open. Not just that these children also lack safe drinking water facilities, leading to frequent prevalence of water-borne diseases, the report says.

The report reveals that India's flagship child welfare scheme, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is catering to just 30% of the total population of children (0-6 yrs) in Delhi. “Though 11 Nutritional Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs) have been operational, functioning of these NRCs is very dismal as severely acute malnourished (SAM) children rarely avail referral services for their immediate treatment. In most cases, Aanganwadi workers are unaware of availability of such centers and their services,” the report said.

The report states that overall malnutrition among girl children (38%) was higher than the boys (34%). The study highlights that most of the undernourished children were not exclusively breast fed, less breast fed or were initiated supplementary nutrition at a much later period.

Factors like absence of community awareness, socio-cultural practices such as lack of exclusive breast-feeding, early marriages and gender discrimination also contribute to child malnutrition, the study reveals. “In cases where both the parents are working (especially in low-income groups) often young children are not properly looked after, making them more vulnerable to malnutrition,” the report reveals.

Soha Moitra, Regional Director, North, CRY, said the ministries  concerned should take necessary action to implement strategies on enhancing newborn care, widening coverage of primary immunisation, treatment of childhood diseases and policy driven initiatives. Quoting the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, she said that the problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame. “Despite that, fewer efforts have been done to tackle the gravity of the situation,” she said.

Reena Banerjee, Convener, Alliance for People’s Rights (APR), said, “We were shocked at the plight of people residing in these ‘bastis’ in Delhi. We found that there is no streamlined targeting of nutrition-related programmes for pregnant women and children in these areas.”

The report strongly urges for sensitisation of community on preventive and curative aspects of malnutrition including behavioral and practice aspects focusing on social and cultural practices done after the birth of the child.

The report also calls for effective coordination between various departments & bodies including Women and Child Development, Health Department, Municipal authorities and the district administration for bringing about a positive change.

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