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Growth of kids in hostile areas stunted: US study

india Updated: Apr 29, 2013 22:29 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times
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A US-based survey has painted a grim picture of children born and brought up in hostile and violent atmosphere in Kashmir as "they are showing stunted growth, poor performance in schools and jobs, and poor health conditions."

"The exposure to violence early in life has adverse impacts on children's age-adjusted height. Children living in urban areas of Kashmir, excluding Srinagar, are affected the most by the experience of violence. These children are up to 2.5 standard deviations shorter because of the insurgency," says the report titled 'Armed Conflict and Children's Health -The case of Kashmir' published by Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, US.

The study prepared in 2012 observes that the effect is stronger among children who were born during peaks in violence. "Shorter children perform worse in schools, in jobs, and are sicker throughout their life...Children in J&K are shorter on the average and close to being stunted," warns the report.

The report takes National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for India, a national and representative household survey, to analyse the effects of the Kashmir insurgency on children's height.

The survey has divided children born in three distinct militant phases in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir. "Children in Kashmir are indeed shorter compared to children in Jammu because of the insurgency. They are up to 1.5 standard deviations shorter," it pointed out.

The insurgency also has a negative, but less pronounced, impact on Hindus in Jammu. "These children are up to 0.48 standard deviations shorter compared to non-Hindus," it says.

The risk of stunt growth is higher among the children born between 1990 and 1993, when the state experienced worst violent years and higher civilian casualties.

"Children who experienced violence in utero and early in their life are 0.9 to 1.4 standard deviation shorter than children who experienced less or no violence early in their life," it added.

According to the survey, the districts most affected by violence are Srinagar (40%), Baramula (17%), Kupwara (11%), Anantnag (10%), Pulwama (7%) and Budgam (3%).

The report has the Valley's psychiatrists worried. "It is a known fact that chronic stress does decrease hormone from pituitary gland, responsible for growth. But I can neither confirm the report nor reject it as no survey has been carried out on impact of violence on height of children in the Valley," said Dr Arshad Hussain, a leading psychiatrist working with premiere government hospital Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital.

Dr Hussain, however, reject the preposition that trauma just works negatively. "We have trauma-activated personalities who have become significant contributor to the society. Many books and autobiographies are outcome of trauma. Conflict may impact how a person will become in the future but not who they are, which are two different things," said Dr Hussain.

He added that people in Kashmir have shown amazing resilience and there is apparently no impact on people's height.