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India’s enduring problem with malnutrition


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Nigeria

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Deshraj reaches out for his mother's breast as she balances him on her knees, sitting outside her low, mud-walled home.

The little boy cries, but with no strength.

Deshraj is two years old but barely larger than a newborn and crazed by hunger.

His hair is patchy, his eyes are sunken and his legs like twigs - he is so weak he can't even walk.

But his mother turns him away; she has nothing left to give.

"We can't get him to eat bread," she says in an irritated tone, clearly annoyed at being asked questions, and walks away.

Deshraj is one of millions of Indian children suffering severe malnutrition, an enduring problem Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a "national shame".

“Start Quote

Sometimes the mothers don't know how best to look after their children”

Health worker

Yet despite supposedly spending billions of rupees on poverty and food-relief programmes - and during a period of sustained economic growth - the government has made only a dent in the problem.

It is estimated that one in four of the world's malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa.

Weakened by hunger, they are more vulnerable to disease, with tens of thousands dying every year. Millions more will be physically and mentally stunted for life because they don't get enough to eat in their crucial early years.

'Hunger belt'

India has fallen in child development rankings, putting it behind poorer countries such as neighbouring Bangladesh or the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a new study by the Save the Children charity.

So when UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosts a summit this weekend on child malnutrition worldwide, India is one of the countries of greatest concern.

Yet this is hardly a new problem. India has been arguing over what to do about hunger and the poverty that underpins it for years - while its farms produce ever more food.

Article Credit:BBC News

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Updated 7 Years ago
 

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