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Over half of 5000 kids dying daily in India are girls

Nov 23, 2012

Civil society activists raise hands to say “yes, we can” to lobby so that leaders need to walk the talk on child deaths

Oscar Fernandes

As Indian Parliamentarian Oscar Fernandes raised hands to pledge his support to an ongoing campaign prevent children from dying, reflections of the evening that passed raced through the minds of over hundred assembled people.

This followed two hours of soul-searching to understand the daily toll of 5,000 little ones before their fifth birthday, most of whom are girls obviously because Indians value our girl child less than our sons. Sadly, the reasons behind these daily deaths across the vast stretches of the country are preventable by simple low-cost, local and sustainable solutions. Malnutrition, for instance, remains the underlying cause for over half the deaths.

Moments earlier, fifteen-year-old Sadhna told the gathering how she came to the world unattended because folks around knew they were expecting a girl child. She spoke of how her unemployed father could not afford food for her starving mother.

“My mother did not receive any support from the family as well as the community because she already had given birth to two daughters,” Sadhna said.

Sadhna’s friend Pragati spoke of how her infant sister died because she wasn’t attended to by a medical hand for two days since her birth. Brought to the gathering by the young people being trained by World Vision India as part of its young journalists programme, these stories provided a reality check.

World Vision India is part of a larger campaign by its parent organisation to bring the focus on the state of child malnutrition and health. The campaign aims to gather people like Fernandes and hundreds more worldwide to demand leaders to support child health with a pledge to lobby for action for child survival saying “Yes, we can”.

Fernandes shared a recent example from pre-winter shopping he undertook with some children in Delhi recently – while he took the children to buy them shoes and jackets, one boy wanted him to buy milk for his little sister, he said.
The issue gets increasingly complex – and World Vision’s Global Week of Action (GWA) marked by its ‘Count me in/Survive 5’ slogan has become a popular mobilisation event across 40 countries in the world last week.

The week-long movement, part of World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, has so far seen more than 438,000 actions taken by people in over 70 countries, all showing leaders they don’t think it’s OK for nearly seven million children under the age of five die from preventable causes every year.

Moderating the discussion, Dr Jayakumar Christian, CEO and National Director, World Vision India pointed out that ‘Child Health Now is not just about a week of action but about yet another opportunity to promote and drive sustained dialogue and action,” he said. “We need action not just in the corridors of power but also across levels so that it positively impacts the poor at the grassroots level across India and the world’.

In India, so far more than 550,000 hands have been raised across the country in support of the campaign. Half of the world's child fatalities are concentrated in five countries led by India. The infamous club includes Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan and China - certainly embarrassing company for the world's largest democracy.

It remains to be seen though, if leaders like Fernandes can steer the opinion in the government beyond just buying children gifts.

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