'375 mn Indian children may suffer due to Covid-19 pandemic': CSE report

Updated on Feb 25, 2021 11:00 PM IST

CSE’s director general Sunita Narian said Covid-19 had made the world’s poor poorer.

Indian children wearing face masks as a precaution against Covid-19. (AP)
Indian children wearing face masks as a precaution against Covid-19. (AP)
By, New Delhi

Around 375 million children (aged between 0-14 years) in India may suffer from the long-lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including malnutrition to loss of education and work productivity, said the Centre for Science and Environment in its annual State of Environment report released on Thursday.

The report has derived this number based on different studies done on the impact of children due to Covid-19 across the world and India by organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Health Science.

The UNICEF said that most of the children missed the subsidised food offered in government schools during the lockdown. The CSE estimated that about 90.4 million children missed the meals. The report said that half of 500 million children that were forced out of schools across the world were in India.

“The target to reduce the stunting target to 2.5 per cent of the children in the age group of 0-5 by 2030 from 34.7 per cent in 2018 could be impacted because of Covid-19,” the report said.

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CSE’s director general Sunita Narian said Covid-19 had made the world’s poor poorer. “Additionally, 115 million people may get pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic and most of them live in South Asia,” she said.

On the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the report said that India ranks 117 among 192 countries and is behind all South Asian countries, except Pakistan.

The five best performing states on SDGs are Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the report said, adding that the five worst states were Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.

On air pollution, the report pointed out that 1.67 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019 and its economic cost was $36,000 million, equivalent to 1.36 per cent of India’s GDP.

The report said that contrary to popular belief, India’s rivers did not see any significant improvement in their water quality during the lockdown. “Of India’s 19 major rivers, five – including Ganga – ran dirtier in the Covid-19 period,” the report said.

Amid all the gloom, the report said there was one good news. And, it was that 34 per cent of Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act funds since 2014-15 were used for water-related works, leading to the creation of almost 11 million water assets in half a million India villages.

“The overall assessment is that our air and water quality is under stress; all trends show that pollution is increasing and this has massive impacts on our health,” she said.

However, she pointed out that the good news was that India was adopting new sustainable technologies. “We are adopting technologies that will be affordable to large numbers and so, sustainable,” she said.

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