07/26/2007, 00.00
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Every day hunger kills 6,000 children in India

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Catholic Church launches a new campaign against malnutrition in the country. “Freedom from Hunger” is intended to draw people’s attention to the large segment of India’s population that does not have access to enough food.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “It is shameful to see children die of hunger whilst the country prepares to celebrate its diamond jubilee, 60 years of independence. Some may celebrate economic growth and success, but others do not have enough to eat. Dying from malnutrition is not limited to rural areas, but takes place in urban areas as well, like India’s commercial capital of Mumbai,” said Fr Nithia Sagayam, national executive secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Development of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). He told AsiaNews that this is the paradox “of deaths from hunger in a land of plenty.”

A paradox made the more tragic by the fact that the country has stockpiles of surplus grains, which are sometimes destroyed because they were excess production.

For this reason on ‘Justice Day,’ the Sunday that follows Independence Day, the Indian Catholic Church will try to shake the conscience of Christians and non Christians alike on the inherent human right to eat. This year’s chosen theme is Freedom from Hunger.

Hunger is not a hypothetical problem but one that haunts the daily lives of millions of people in India. Just last week a six-month-old baby died from malnutrition in Goregaon a Mumbai suburb; a story like that of two seven-year-old twins—Rohit and Rohini—hospitalised as “severely malnourished.”

Their names are but a few drops in the bucket. According to a National Family Health Survey conducted between December 2005 and August 2006, more than 6,000 Indian children below the age of five years die every day from malnourishment. Moreover, India is home to 57 million (more than a third) of the world's undernourished children.

In 2001 alone, starvation deaths were reported in more than a dozen Indian states. But in July 2002 it was announced that India’s surplus stocks had reached 63 million tonnes, a world record level.

It becomes patently absurd then that in the land of plenty an estimated 440 million Indians should languish at the bottom of the country’s economic and social ladder without enough to eat.

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