More than one-third of
under five-year-olds living in Delhi’s slums are malnourished, concludes a
study by Child Rights and You (CRY) and Alliance for People’s rights (APR). The
study, aimed at grasping the extent of malnutrition and nutritional
deficiencies among the 0–5 years age group in urban Delhi and analysing the
causative factors thereof, found that at least 36 per cent of 3,650 children did not have access to
nutritious food and were underweight. In addition, the overall malnutrition
among girl kids (38 per cent) was apparently higher than it was for boys (34
per cent). Out of the total malnourished children, 33 per cent were in severely
acute malnutrition (SAM) category and 67 per cent were moderately malnourished
(MAM).

 

‘The fast pace of urbanization
poses a significant challenge to children living in urban slums. It is
especially challenging for newborns and infants whose health entirely depends
on the availability of the mother to breastfeed, the ability of the caregiver
and household to provide nutritious meals, the quality of the public healthcare
system and overall community support,’ CRY Associate General Manager Jaya Singh
said in a statement.

 

What also becomes quite
clear is that child health schemes are not reaching the poor. Over the years,
the government has spent billions of dollars on welfare schemes, but social
activists say these are often badly run programmes riddled with corruption, with
little of the money reaching the poor.

The CRY study found that
just 30 per cent of children under six were covered by the Integrated Child
Development Scheme (ICDS) – a massive state-run scheme to feed children of poor
families. It also found that practices such as bottle feeding and discrimination
against women were prevalent in slum communities, with little awareness that
they were contributing to child malnutrition. Further, more than 50 per cent of
the malnourished children did not have access to clean drinking water and
defecated in the open, leading to frequent bouts of water-borne diseases such
as diarrhoea, the survey found.

 

While 11 nutritional
rehabilitation centres (NRC) were operational in the national capital, children
were hardly availing referral services for their immediate care in the NRCs and
even the community health workers were unaware of such a facility, CRY regional
director Soha Moitra said.

 

‘We were shocked at the
plight of people residing in the slums of Delhi. There is no streamlined
targeting of nutrition-related programmes for pregnant women and children in
these areas. There is a need to increase coverage and central funding to
schemes in Delhi,’ said APR convener Reena Banerjee.