01/11/2012, 00.00
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Malnourished children in India, a "national shame"

by Nirmala Carvalho
Prime Minister Singh reacts to Hungama (Hunger and malnutrition) report, drawn from various NGOs. According to the survey, 42% of children under five are underweight. Over the past seven years, the rate fell by 11%. In the State of Chhattisgarh, the Sisters of the Holy Cross plans promote nutrition, medical care and health education among the rural poor.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - 42% of Indian children under five are underweight and malnourished. The figure is "a national disgrace," according to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The figures come from the publication of the Hungama (Hunger and malnutrition) report, which examined more than 73 thousand cases in nine Indian states. A number of NGOs have conducted the survey. The result is impressive especially when compared with rates of GDP growth, which reached almost 10% over the past 20 years, making India the third largest economy in Asia.

Research shows that the percentage of malnourished children under five years of age fell by 11% over the past seven years, but for Singh the result detected by Hungama is still "unacceptable".

According to Rohini Mukherjee, of the Naad Foundation (an NGO that has contributed to the report), the result is "even more serious considering India's Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, the largest global program for the development of early childhood. " In fact, the activist says, "this project is a failure because it is undermined by corruption and inefficiency."

Next to the national program, however, there are positive efforts, often supported by the Catholic Church and other religious institutions.

Since 1978 in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh State, the Sisters of the Holy Cross have headed a hospital dedicated to the poor and needy in rural areas, between the groups most affected by the scourge of malnutrition. At Holy Cross Hospital, the Sisters welcome those who can not afford the medical treatment provided in the big cities, without distinction of creed or race.

"The mortality rate of malnourished children - Sister Teresa, administrator of the hospital, notes, - is very high, because they are exposed to diseases such as malaria or other problems." Through community health centers and rural development programs, the Sisters of the Holy Cross fight cases of severe acute malnutrition. "With our mobile clinics - Sister Theresa says - and medical camps that we create in remote areas, we serve the poorest of the poor in and around Ambikapur. We promote nutrition programs, medical services and conduct health education. "

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