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Malnutrition hampering India's economic growth: UN

Posted Jan 26 2009 4:27pm

New Delhi: India is progressing well in education and showing consistency in economic growth but its progress is getting downplayed due to poor child health conditions, a new United Nations report has said.

"In recent years, India has made impressive progress towards enrolment in primary schools. Progress in child health indicators is less impressive. Bangladesh and Nepal with lower levels of income and economic growth, have outperformed India on this indicator," said the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report of the Unesco.

The report said that while India has sustained one of the world's highest economic growths for the last two decades, social indicators for child mortality, nutrition and child health lag far behind, reports IANS.

If India had reduced child mortality to Bangladesh levels, it would have had 200,000 fewer deaths in 2006, the report said.

"Rising average income has done little to enhance child nutrition," the report said quoting India's national family health survey which says percentage of underweight children (46 per cent) remained unchanged between 1998 and 2005.

Around 75 per cent of pre-school children in India suffer iron deficiency and 60 per cent have sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency.

"Health provisions are lacking in many areas. More than one quarter of children with diarrhoea are never treated. Around 45 per cent children do not receive the full DPT3 vaccination," the Unesco report said.

"The marked disconnect between success in the economy and failure in child nutrition is the product of deep inequalities linked to income, caste, gender and state," the report said.

The global education body has described the flagship Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) as a failure. "The programme fails to preferentially target girls, children from lower castes and the poor, all of whom face higher risk of malnutrition."

The report said that the Indian government had said that it would create a world-class education system but achieving the goal will require stronger political leadership and practical policies that link the education for all agenda with policies to improve public health and enhance equity.
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