Poor households of urban India are emerging hotspots for hunger and ill-health and children there live in worse conditions than in rural areas, says a new UN report released on Wednesday.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report -- state of the world’s children 2012 -- say that like most parts of the world, children living in around 49,000 slums in India are "invisible". Half of these slums are in five states – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
"The notion that even poor in urban areas is better is not correct," said Kanchan Dyuti Maiti, social policy planning and evaluation specialist at Unicef’s India office.
In India, around 377 million live in urban areas of which around 97 million are poor as per Planning Commission’s poverty estimate. By 2026, estimated 535 million people will live in towns and cities; 40% of India's population, mainly because of migration.
Already children in urban India face inequity because of hunger, ill-health, poor access to water and sanitation, insufficient education and child labour. Around 47% children of urban poor are malnourished and 48% of the girls are married as child brides.
The report also quoted a 2005-06 survey of eight Indian cities to states that 54% of poorest children were found to be stunted as compared to 33% among the rest of the urban population.
Seven out of 10 children of less than five years and six out of 10 poor women in cities are enaemic. Almost half of pregnant women in poor urban families don’t have access to safe delivery of their children resulting in high infant mortality rate, the report said.
Although cities offer children schools, clinics and playgrounds, the report highlighted that some richest cities in the world such as Mumbai also have greatest disparity in children’s health, education and opportunities.
"Cities will continue to grow and more children will find themselves living in an urban world; a world that holds the promise for many of employment, development and economic growth", said Unicef India Representative, Karin Hulshof.
The report said half of the world’s children live in cities and urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities around the world excluded from vital services. The report urged the governments to remove barriers to inclusion and ensure they have access to basic facilities. In India, there is a health mission only for rural parts and a large population living in urban slums.