Gap between haves and have-nots hits kids hard: study

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 19, 2014 19:24 IST

Almost one in three children show signs of malnutrition at age 12, with the rates higher for children who are poor, socially-marginalised and live in rural areas, show preliminary findings from the Young Lives study.

Malnutrition in children from urban areas and socially-advantaged groups was lower largely because they had better access to clean water and sanitation, showed the study that tracked how children’s lives in India have changed over the past 11 years when the study began.

India is home to 1.2 billion people of whom 30% are children. Given the scale of the poverty— 69% of the population lives on less than Rs 120 per day— and that a quarter of all child deaths globally occur in India, tackling child poverty has global significance.

There has been some improvement. An inter-cohort analysis, which allows to see changes in children’s environment over time, revealed a decline of 6 percentage points in stunting among 12-year-olds in 2013 compared to 2006.

The data showed that food patterns of poor children is changing, with children eating fewer pulses, legumes and nuts. Less than 20% of those analysed were regularly eating meat, fish and eggs.

Elementary School enrolment of 12-year-olds improved from 89% in 2006 to 97% in 2013, with the increase being most significant for girls and scheduled-caste children.

But people seem to have more faith in private schooling. The number of children attending private schools increased from 32% in 2006 to 41% in 2013.

A surprising finding was the number of girls getting married in their teens. Despite the legal age for marriage being set at 18 for girls by the Prevention of Child Marriages Act, 2006, 37% of girls were married at an average age of 16.6 years, reported the study launched by Sindhushree Khullar, secretary of the Planning Commission, and Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

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