By South Asia correspondent James Bennett
Despite India’s rapid economic development, malnutrition still affects one third of the country’s children. Poor sanitation and diet are to blame, but now one Australian charity is working to solve that.
In a slum in impoverished Bahadurgarh, one hour from central New Delhi, there are no toilets and electricity is limited.
Local woman Bharti Sarkar explains that most get by on just a few dollars a day, and simply cannot afford to feed their children much, except the Indian staples of lentils and rice.
“The lentils have become really expensive and the vegetable seller only comes in the evening with old vegetables, so we don’t really get to have them,” she says.
Poor diets, particularly among the poor, are a major cause of malnutrition in India, which still has a greater proportion of malnourished children than many considerably poorer African countries.
There isn’t a single toilet in this neighbourhood. We don’t even have water, so how can there be a toilet?
Resident Bharti Sarkar
A joint UN and government survey completed this year shows almost one third of children under the age of five across India are still classified as underweight.
Nearly 40 per cent are physically stunted.
Saha Moitra, the director of NGO Child Rights and You, says that means growing minds suffer too.
“Early learning is a very critical space, it contributes in brain development, it contributes in sensory motor and cognitive development,” she says.