Thursday, May 7, 2009


Why should I Vote for leaders who care for Children?
At 400 million, children constitute 41% of India's population. And in most constituencies, children are in the majority than adults.
In spite of the plethora of issues that children face, their problems are either ignored or forgotten by political parties and policy makers, because they are not their vote bank.
Thus, since the children do not have the right to vote, these children trust us, the rest 60%, to use our 'Right to Vote' responsibly and choose a government that's receptive to the issues of India's children.
Why think about children?
Around 20% of Children between 6 & 14 years do not go to school.
2, 20,000 children are HIV infected. A very large percentage of them have no proper access to treatment and are uncared for.
12.6 million Children work in hazardous occupations.
40% of women sex workers enter into prostitution when they are still children (i.e., before they are 18 yrs old)
47% of children are malnourished
74% of children below 3 years are anemic.
But the budget allotted to address issues of 400 million children was just less than 5% of the total budget.
What do the children want?
Following is a 10 point “Children’s Manifesto” that children from across the country have put together as part of the ‘Bal Adhikar Sabha’ organized by World Vision India.
1. Every Child to be immunized, every pregnant mother receive nourishment and care, every village has a hospital with doctors.
2. Free, compulsory, quality and inclusive education for all children till they complete eighteen years.
3. Every village has a school, every panchayat a school upto std. 12.
4. Value-based education should be part of the regular curriculum to enable children to make right decisions in future.
5. No discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, religion, poverty, disability, colour, appearance or migrant status.
6. Children should be included in all the development programmes organized by society and by the Government. In every area a special cell should be formed to look after the children's problems.
7. Protection for children from all forms of abuses and severe punishment for perpetrators.
8. Bal Mitra Police and Bal Adalats for protection of children.
9. Extension of National Child Labour Project to every district.
10. 25% of allocation in Budget for children who form 40% of the population.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Can we manage this crisis differently? Bailing out the poor, not just the banks

Author : Minouche Shafik
Date : January 26th, 2009
In every economic crisis, it is the poor that suffer the most. Whether it is individuals or countries, they are the most vulnerable and lack the savings and the institutions to support them during difficult times. In past crises, we have focused too late on adverse effects on poor people. Can we do it differently this time?
The current economic downturn, unlike the East Asia crisis, started in the richest countries and has now affected the major emerging markets. The effects on low income countries are being felt, not mainly through financial markets, but through the volatility of commodity prices, the decline in export volumes and remittances. Reporting from DFID’s offices (Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan) indicate that in some cases poor households are taking children out of school to save money, and families, especially women and girls, are eating less or lower quality food, leading to concerns about malnutrition. Estimates are that the economic crisis has already put 100 million people back into poverty.
It is interesting to recall the lessons from previous shocks. During the recession of the 1980s, many developing countries embarked on structural adjustment programmes. While the economic reforms were often necessary, the awareness of the negative effects quickly became apparent and caused political problems in many countries and for the international financial institutions. The appeals for “adjustment with a human face” ensued and instruments such as Social Funds were established in many countries to cushion the effects through community development, skills training, and microfinance. While these Social Funds were often quite effective, they often took too long to establish and failed to play a truly countercyclical role in helping the poorest cope with economic adjustment.
For developing countries, this crisis started with the spike in food prices in early 2008. Interestingly, there was once again an appeal to create new institutions. The international response focused on a set of short term measures (food aid, social protection, input subsidies, etc.) and longer term measures (investment in research, infrastructure). But within months of agreement on this, food prices had started to fall and energy prices skyrocketed. Once again, there was a search for ways to alleviate the adverse effects. And once momentum on an international response coalesced, oil prices fell by two-thirds.
What lessons can we draw from these experiences? First, it is the nature of globalisation that there will be shocks. Those shocks may be food or fuel prices or credit squeezes or flights to quality, but they will come. Second, attempts to orchestrate a tailored response to protect the most vulnerable will almost always lag behind the need. This is inevitable given the long lead times required when new institutions are desired. Third, the best mechanisms are those that provide protection from any shock and use existing institutions and programmes to keep the most vulnerable above a minimum threshold.
Some countries have formal systems of social protection which can vary from reasonably good (Brazil, Ghana, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam), to limited (Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Central Asia, Caribbean, Iraq) to still under preparation (Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cambodia). But in many countries there is no formal system and poor households rely on informal mechanisms such as remittances (Pakistan, China) or digging into modest savings (China), borrowing from moneylenders (Bangladesh), or drawing down on assets such as livestock (Tanzania) in order to cope. A good example of a well designed social protection scheme is Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme, which provides cash and food transfers for over 7 million people. £13 ($18) per month pays for cash transfers to support an entire family. The overwhelming majority (84%) of households spend some or all of this cash on buying staple food, ensuring improved health and nutrition outcomes and protecting families from having to sell productive assets to pay for food. Over a quarter of recipients (28%) also use some of the funds to keep children in school. Cash is also used to settle health bills and to facilitate asset accumulation by many families, especially livestock purchases. The programme proved its value last year, protecting many families from high food prices and drought and enabling the government and donors to use the existing programme to extend the duration of assistance.
DFID does not see the money we have committed to social protection as a welfare programme, although clearly for some households it will provide this function. The real pay off from social protection is in protecting other investments we are making in development (Ravallion, 2008). There is strong evidence that economic shocks in poor countries cause rising infant mortality, falling school enrollment, and falls in nutrition levels (Ferreira and Schady, 2008). Severe malnutrition in early childhood often leads to stunted physical development and deficits in cognitive development - all of which reduce life chances and result in significant losses in life-time earnings (Alderman et al, 2006; Behrman et al, 2004). The costs of preventing such malnutrition can be very low because of recent technological advances - as noted in Josette Sheeran’s January 8 contribution to Ideas4development.
In the months ahead, more poor countries need to be instituting social protection schemes to ensure that this economic crisis does not cause persistent poverty across generations and undermine recent progress, especially on education. When the Tequila crisis hit Mexico in 1994, it triggered the design of the famous PROGRESA programme which resulted in the establishment for the first time of an effective safety net for the country’s poor. More countries should do the same and more donors should be allocating funding to social protection. Robert Zoellick has called on the US to pledge 0.7 per cent of its stimulus package to a vulnerability fund for developing countries, who cannot afford a fiscal stimulus, to help them manage the consequences of the crisis (”A Stimulus Package for the World”, New York Times, 22 January 2009). Ideally we would create a shared funding mechanism that would send a strong signal that, alongside international policy coordination to protect the world’s financial systems, we will work together to protect the poorest from the inevitable shocks that globalisation brings. Without that, we risk losing the international consensus around globalisation and the value of past and future investments in development.

The nutrition challenge and what I saw in India

Author : Josette Sheeran
The global financial crisis and the high cost of food mean different things in different places. In those parts of the world where hunger is on the march, their impact can be measured in empty stomachs and blighted lives. That is why, during my recent visit to India, I traveled to a remote district called Chhatarpur in the central state of Madhya Pradesh (MP). I went there because I wanted to see for myself the plight of people in India’s hunger heartland. I particularly wanted to listen to the experiences of the local women. As always in such situations, the women are the ones in the front line of the war against hunger.
So serious is the food-security situation in MP that, when inserted into the country table of the Global Hunger Index, the state falls between Ethiopia and Chad which are among the 10 poorest-performing countries in the world. One third of the children under five in MP suffer from wasting (too thin for their height) and 60 per cent are underweight (too thin for their age), according to India’s most recent National Family Health Survey.
Chhatarpur, in the north of the state, is one of a number of MP districts in the grip of malnutrition. “Severely insecure” is how it is described in the forthcoming Report of Food Security in Rural India, a joint initiative of the World Food Programme and the MS Swaminathan Foundation. Climate change would appear to be contributing to the problem. Persistent drought during the past five years has led to crop failures and cattle losses, driving many farmers into severe debt. A woman called Krishna told me her husband is jobless, their land barren. They have four small children whom they are struggling to feed. So bad is the situation, they have even been thinking of selling off their land to raise badly-needed cash.
This year, as last year, children died from hunger-related diseases in Chhatarpur. Women whom I met told me of the crushing difficulties they face every day in feeding their children. At a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre where severely malnourished children are nursed back to health, I learnt first-hand about the ravages of hunger. Some of the women had not just one but several malnourished children to care for. The mothers were so busy with looking after their large families and performing endless household chores that, even when they did have enough food, they often did not have the time to prepare it properly and feed it to their babies.
The point about malnutrition, though, is that it is not like cancer. It does not need some new scientific discovery for us to tackle it. We already have the tools to eradicate hunger and history will judge us if we do not use them.
India is home to more than 230 million undernourished people - the highest number of any one country in the world. But it is also at the forefront of the race to produce innovative nutrition technology. WFP’s India operation is currently developing a “smart” nutritional intervention for children of 6-24 months - exactly the age group of children at the Rehabilitation Centre in Chhatarpur.
This new ready-to-use food is made from ingredients such as chickpeas and dry skimmed milk powder with a range of added micronutrients. There is huge scope for this type of nutritional supplement in India which has the highest prevalence of underweight children in the world, higher even that sub-Saharan Africa. This latest addition to our hunger toolbox can be used not just for rehabilitating malnourished children but for preventing them becoming malnourished in the first place.
This product can be made locally and at relatively low cost - a daily ration costs just five rupees (10 cents). Being oil-based, it does not require water for its preparation, giving it a longer shelf life and making it particularly suitable for use in places with poor sanitation. Nor does it require cooking which makes it ideal for distribution in disaster zones - which is why we deployed it as part of our relief package after the recent cyclone in Myanmar.
It has already excited significant interest in the region and beyond. Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have all expressed interest in making this product part of their national food programmes. When I produced a sachet at the African Union Summit in Ethiopia not long ago, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he wanted to start producing locally it in his own country.
I really feel we are embarking on a new age of tackling malnutrition. For the first time, we have a range of products which can deliver the kind of nutritious ‘punch’ that is needed to hit hunger where it matters.
Another initiative that WFP has pioneered in India has been rice fortification. This has huge potential and could be particularly useful in countries like India which has the largest population suffering from vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world.
Just one kernel of this fortified rice, added to 99 regular rice kernels, gives an undernourished child or an adult all those micronutrients they so desperately need.
Working in partnership with a Dutch company and the authorities in Orissa, WFP is starting on a pilot project to fortify 10,000 metric tones of rice in the eastern Indian state. This will be distributed over a two-year period through the Indian government’s mother-and-child feeding programme, reaching up to a quarter of a million beneficiaries. The idea is that what happens in Orissa will serve as a model for the Indian government to extend rice fortification to other parts of the country.
Micronutrient powder is another intervention we’ve been working on in India. Sprinkled on cooked food, this tasteless powder delivers meals that contain the daily recommended intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Again, this innovative idea has applications for use way beyond India and the South Asia region.
We’re looking at nothing short of a nutritional revolution here, a change in the way we target specific needs and specific communities. Another issue we have been exploring in India is how to improve the nutritional status of people with HIV and AIDS. Working closely with India’s National AIDS Control Organisation, WFP has devised a special fortified food supplement called ‘NutriPlus’, made from wheat and full-fat soya. Pilot projects in Orissa and in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are now leading the way in the nutritional care of this particular sector of society in India.
Such new products and initiatives come at a crucial moment. In this time of financial crisis and high food prices, people make cut-backs where they can. What goes first is the nutritional content of a family’s diet. My experiences in Chhatarpur and elsewhere in the world have shown me that, when push comes to shove, vulnerable people either cut down on the number of meals they eat or reduce the servings of food. This is particularly hard on children and babies who need that nutrition and those minerals to grow up into healthy, fully-functioning adults.
If we can target the most vulnerable - particularly young children - with tailored nutritional interventions during the crucial early months of their lives, then we will have gone a long way towards winning our battle against malnutrition.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists

Published: March 12, 2009
NEW DELHI — Small, sick, listless children have long been India’s scourge — “a national shame,” in the words of its prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But even after a decade of galloping economic growth, child malnutrition rates are worse here than in many sub-Saharan African countries, and they stand out as a paradox in a proud democracy.
China, that other Asian economic powerhouse, sharply reduced child malnutrition, and now just 7 percent of its children under 5 are underweight, a critical gauge of malnutrition. In India, by contrast, despite robust growth and good government intentions, the comparable number is 42.5 percent. Malnutrition makes children more prone to illness and stunts physical and intellectual growth for a lifetime.
There are no simple explanations. Economists and public health experts say stubborn malnutrition rates point to a central failing in this democracy of the poor. Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize-winning economist, lamented that hunger was not enough of a political priority here. India’s public expenditure on health remains low, and in some places, financing for child nutrition programs remains unspent.
Yet several democracies have all but eradicated hunger. And ignoring the needs of the poor altogether does spell political peril in India, helping to topple parties in the last elections.
Others point to the efficiency of an authoritarian state like China. India’s sluggish and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy has only haltingly put in place relatively simple solutions — iodizing salt, for instance, or making sure all children are immunized against preventable diseases — to say nothing of its progress on the harder tasks, like changing what and how parents feed their children.
But as China itself has grown more prosperous, it has had its own struggles with health care, as the government safety net has shredded with its adoption of a more market-driven economy.
While India runs the largest child feeding program in the world, experts agree it is inadequately designed, and has made barely a dent in the ranks of sick children in the past 10 years.
The $1.3 billion Integrated Child Development Services program, India’s primary effort to combat malnutrition, finances a network of soup kitchens in urban slums and villages.
But most experts agree that providing adequate nutrition to pregnant women and children under 2 years old is crucial — and the Indian program has not homed in on them adequately. Nor has it succeeded in sufficiently changing child feeding and hygiene practices. Many women here remain in ill health and are ill fed; they are prone to giving birth to low-weight babies and tend not to be aware of how best to feed them.
A tour of Jahangirpuri, a slum in this richest of Indian cities, put the challenge on stark display. Shortly after daybreak, in a rented room along a narrow alley, an all-female crew prepared giant vats of savory rice and lentil porridge.
Purnima Menon, a public health researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute, was relieved to see it was not just starch; there were even flecks of carrots thrown in. The porridge was loaded onto bicycle carts and ferried to nurseries that vet and help at-risk children and their mothers throughout the neighborhood.
So far, so good. Except that at one nursery — known in Hindi as an anganwadi — the teacher was a no-show. At another, there were no children; instead, a few adults sauntered up with their lunch pails. At a third, the nursery worker, Brij Bala, said that 13 children and 13 lactating mothers had already come to claim their servings, and that now she would have to fill the bowls of whoever came along, neighborhood aunties and all. “They say, ‘Give us some more,’ so we have to,” Ms. Bala confessed. “Otherwise, they will curse us.”
None of the centers had a working scale to weigh children and to identify the vulnerable ones, a crucial part of the nutrition program.
Most important from Ms. Menon’s point of view, the nurseries were largely missing the needs of those most at risk: children under 2, for whom the feeding centers offered a dry ration of flour and ground lentils, containing none of the micronutrients a vulnerable infant needs.
In a memorandum prepared in February, the Ministry of Women and Child Development acknowledged that while the program had yielded some gains in the past 30 years, “its impact on physical growth and development has been rather slow.” The report recommended fortifying food with micronutrients and educating parents on how to better feed their babies.
A World Food Program report last month noted that India remained home to more than a fourth of the world’s hungry, 230 million people in all. It also found anemia to be on the rise among rural women of childbearing age in eight states across India. Indian women are often the last to eat in their homes and often unlikely to eat well or rest during pregnancy. Ms. Menon’s institute, based in Washington, recently ranked India below two dozen sub-Saharan countries on its Global Hunger Index.
Childhood anemia, a barometer of poor nutrition in a lactating mother’s breast milk, is three times higher in India than in China, according to a 2007 research paper from the institute.
The latest Global Hunger Index described hunger in Madhya Pradesh, a destitute state in central India, as “extremely alarming,” ranking the state somewhere between Chad and Ethiopia.
More surprising, though, it found that “serious” rates of hunger persisted across Indian states that had posted enviable rates of economic growth in recent years, including Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Here in the capital, which has the highest per-capita income in the country, 42.2 percent of children under 5 are stunted, or too short for their age, and 26 percent are underweight. A few blocks from the Indian Parliament, tiny, ill-fed children turn somersaults for spare change at traffic signals.
Back in Jahangirpuri, a dead rat lay in the courtyard in front of Ms. Bala’s nursery. The narrow lanes were lined with scum from the drains. Malaria and respiratory illness, which can be crippling for weak, undernourished children, were rampant. Neighborhood shops carried small bags of potato chips and soda, evidence that its residents were far from destitute.
In another alley, Ms. Menon met a young mother named Jannu, a migrant from the northern town of Lucknow. Jannu said she found it difficult to produce enough milk for the baby in her arms, around 6 months old. His green, watery waste dripped down his mother’s arms. He often has diarrhea, Jannu said, casually rinsing her arm with a tumbler of water.
Ms. Menon could not help but notice how small Jannu was, like so many of Jahangirpuri’s mothers. At 5 feet 2 inches tall, Ms. Menon towered over them. Children who were roughly the same age as her own daughter were easily a foot shorter. Stunted children are so prevalent here, she observed, it makes malnutrition invisible.
“I see a system failing,” Ms. Menon said. “It is doing something, but it is not solving the problem.”
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire’s 8 Oscars Should Translate into Action for Children in India

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Monday, February 23, 2009 -- (Business Wire India)

“Don’t just be entertained; do something,” World Vision India urges moviegoers as Oscars pile up and India celebrates.As Slumdog Millionaire, a movie depicting the challenges of ‘street children’ in India wins 8 Oscars today causing widespread jubilation around the country, World Vision India is calling for action that ensures children like Jamal, Salim and Latika are protected, educated and cared for.“While the film does a good job depicting the realities of slum life to a large extent, there are many more challenges these children are up against,” said Dr. Jayakumar Christian, National Director World Vision India. “Moviegoers should realize that poverty in India is a clear and present challenge for children in India —but there are tangible ways people can make a difference.”According to the agency, which has worked in India for 50 years, the following key issues facing impoverished children in India need urgent action against;-- Malnutrition: Recent government and civil society reports have pointed to the dismal state of child nutrition and survival in India. World Bank report estimates that malnutrition costs us $10 billion every year in terms of lost productivity. World Vision firmly believes that if we do not invest in children, poverty will never be history. World Vision’s call for proper implementation and allocation of appropriate funds will ensure that every child has nutrition security.-- HIV and AIDS: Statistics show that HIV prevalence in India has halved. However, the issues facing children are grim. These are children who are taking up the mantle of heading households at a tender age. These are the children who have poor access to health care or antiretrovirals. These children have the challenges of access to schools and health care and sometime even property rights. A comprehensive HIV and AIDS Act that addresses there challenges with a special focus on children is the need of the hour.-- Child Labour: According to the Census 2001, poverty has trapped over 12.59 million children in labour in India. Girl children are more vulnerable. World Vision believes that every child who is not in school is a sure candidate for child labour. The promise of compulsory education for girls and boys up to the primary level is the first step to keeping children out of child labour. We advocate the need for an extension of this benefit to the secondary level, with a special focus on girls. -- Education: Of all development interventions, education is known to be the most effective contributing to the transformation of communities, the next generation and breaking the inevitable cycle of poverty. Focusing on education, especially of girls works every time. More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12. One of two Indian girls aged 6-18 has never stepped into a school. This is true in many of the over 5000 communities that we work in. This definitely underlines the need to enact the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill and also allocate 6% of the country’s GDP towards education.-- Protection: India’s child abuse report released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development department found that two in three of the over 12,000 children surveyed in 13 states across the country, have suffered some form of abuse. More than half of the children surveyed reported having been sexually abused. Speedy implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Services so that children grow up without fear is the urgent need.-- Natural disasters and climate change: Monsoon rains and flooding take lives but also destroy agricultural crops, which some 70 percent of Indians depend on to earn a living. A recent World Vision report warned of further steps needed to protect coastal communities in India its neighbors. Strengthening the response of communities to disasters through a strong approach of disaster preparedness and risk reduction is urgently needed in disaster prone areas.World Vision works in close to 50 slums like Dharavi, depicted in Slumdog Millionaire, as well as communities across the country, assisting street children, people living with HIV and AIDS, child labourers, migrants and families in need of clean water, sanitation, education and economic opportunities. “World Vision can attest to the fact that children have an amazing ability to overcome their circumstances, just like Slumdog Millionaire shows,” Dr. Jayakumar said, “and we’re asking people to partner with the children of India so that breaking out of poverty doesn’t have to be a one-in-a-million miracle.”
The public can donate or learn more by visiting About World Vision IndiaWorld Vision India is a Christian humanitarian organization working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, caste, race, ethnicity or gender. Spread over 150 locations in India, World Vision works through long-term sustainable community development programmes and immediate disaster relief assistance.Focus on Children: All development work we carry out is focused on building the community around children so that they have the opportunity to reach for a better future. Grass root Based: World Vision’s relief and development is community based. Our staff live with the communities at the grass roots, living with them, learning from them and working along with them to find solutions to issues of poverty.Partnering for Change: We partner with the people in their development, work with the Government and civil society to usher in a better and brighter future for India.World Vision has responded to every major disaster in India in the last few decades including the recent tsunami, Kashmir earthquake and the recent floods in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa and Assam. World Vision India is also member of the Planning Commission working group on women and child development and the NGO steering committee of the National Disaster Management Authority.
For press backgrounder on World Vision India click hereMedia contact details Joy Christina. R, Manager - Media Relations,World Vision India,+91 (044) 24807064 / +919840798734,

A Roadmap to End Global Hunger

Two years ago a coalition of humanitarian organizations began the process that has resulted in today's release of the Roadmap To End Global Hunger.
Today, representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and the Humanitarian Coalition came together to release the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. [pdf] The humanitarian organizations involved are Bread for the World, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, the Congressional Hunger Center, Friends of the World Food Program, Mercy Corps, Save the Children and World Vision. ''The United States needs a new strategy. Instead of playing defense, trying to lessen the impact of an individual crisis, we need to strengthen our offense and root out the underlying causes of hunger. The Roadmap is the right game plan at the right time to make this happen,'' says Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, an internationally recognized expert on health, development and humanitarian issues. ''CARE favors humanitarian policies and practices that save lives and at the same time, help break the cycle of chronic poverty and hunger. One way to achieve this is by shifting to local purchase and cash transfers. These practices not only help feed the hungry, they also stimulate agricultural development and trade,'' says David Kauck, CARE senior technical advisor and an expert on food security issues.' The Coalition and Congress members are seeking to address a growing economic crisis that threatens to destroy the health and nutrition of millions of families worldwide. "Hunger is a tremendous problem, and it is not enough for our response to conditions of malnutrition, starvation and poverty to simply be well-intentioned. We must construct a complete response to hunger and script wide-ranging and proven-effective strategies. This Roadmap is a positive step that establishes commonsense waypoints so we can measure success at alleviating hunger and set good goals for the future. I'm glad to have Representative Jim McGovern and other colleagues by my side in the U.S. Congress who continue to work to raise the profile of this critical issue and implement solutions," said Emerson. The bipartisan legislation is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks and it is anticipated to incorporate key recommendations of the Roadmap to End Global Hunger campaign. The Roadmap to End Global Hunger and the legislation will set forth a comprehensive and strategic plan that addresses world hunger in the short, intermediate and long term. The intent is to increase funding for key interventions needed to alleviate global hunger and ensure better coordination among existing U.S. government programs.