Encouraging Healthy Starts for Indian Children
Poverty is a complex problem with many consequences.
Families living in the world's poorest countries often face significant
challenges, including food scarcity, underemployment and a lack of access to
basic medical care, all of which can jeopardize children's development. However,
without a healthy start, many children are unlikely to reach their full
potential. In India, one of the fastest growing economic powers in the world,
this is a serious problem for many families. ChildFund has worked in India
since 1951, and ensuring that children receive the start they need is one of
our primary objectives.
The Health Impacts of Food Scarcity
India has a population
of approximately 1.2 billion, with 37 percent living below the poverty line.
Some parts of the country, like the northeastern provinces, have significantly
higher rates of poverty, and malnutrition and associated developmental
challenges remain one of the most urgent problems for many Indian
Data from UNICEF indicates that between 2007 and 2011, almost
one-third of Indian children were born at a low birth weight. Approximately 43
percent of children were moderately to severely underweight. In addition, almost
half of children born between 2007 and 2011 suffered
from moderate to severe growth stunting as a result of insufficient
nourishment. One-fifth of children also experienced wasting, which causes muscle
and fat tissue to deteriorate, during the same period.
In addition to the
lack of availability of healthy food in rural Indian provinces, social factors
also play a major role in children's development. Many of India's poorest people
belong to lower social castes — groups into which people are born,
limiting potential employment. Although the grip of castes has decreased in
recent years with India's economic growth, children in lower castes still face
disadvantages, including fewer educational opportunities. ChildFund focuses many
of our efforts on helping families emerge from generational poverty by providing
greater access to education.
Much progress has been
made in India in recent years, but these figures highlight just how important
healthy-start interventions are to millions of Indian children. Last year,
ChildFund helped more than 1.6 million children and their parents, including
people belonging to scheduled castes and tribes. Of the families ChildFund
assists in India, almost 40 percent belong to these historically marginalized
Prenatal and neonatal care are among our top priorities in
India's poorest provinces. Our healthy-start initiatives place great emphasis on
training local people to offer more comprehensive support and assistance to
expectant mothers before, during and after their pregnancies. In addition, we
help mothers learn how to care for their babies and children more effectively by
providing them with training on crucial health care such as breastfeeding,
immunization, personal hygiene and management of preventable
Last year, we established more
than 1,900 early childhood development centers in villages across India. At
these facilities, children between the ages of 0 and 6 receive informal
education as well as nutritious food to ensure they develop to their full
potential physically, emotionally and cognitively. These centers also serve as
community hubs where mothers and caregivers can receive training on early
childhood health care.
are a vital source of funding for our operations in India, child sponsorship
remains the most important means of supporting our initiatives. More than 65,000
children are sponsored in India, but many more children need help. Please
a child in India.