FYI 28th June, 2019

The State Of India’s Children.

The Global Childhood report, released on May 28, 2019 by Save the Children, ranked India 113 out of 176 countries. The index evaluates countries on eight indicators to determine the wellbeing of children and teenagers (0-19 years). This includes child mortality under five years of age, malnutrition that stunts growth, lack of education, child labour, early marriage, adolescent births, displacement by conflict and child homicide. A final score out of 1,000 is derived, and countries are ranked accordingly. The report says that more than a quarter of a billion children are better off today than 20 years ago. 

In the year 2000, an estimated 970 million children were deprived of their childhood due to life-changing events like child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness, malnutrition and violent deaths. That number today has reduced to 690 million which shows that at least 280 million children are better off today than they would have been two decades ago. Together, China and India account for more than half of the global decline in stunting alone. 

Despite that, one in four children in the world are still denied the right to a safe and healthy childhood, with children living in or fleeing from conflict zones being amongst the most disadvantaged. The situation of Indian children is worse than its neighbors, except for Pakistan’s.       

India Rank 4th Among Neighbours on End of Childhood Index 

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

Between 2000 and 2019, India’s score rose from 632 to 769. India also improved its rank of 116 in 2018 to 113 of 176 countries this year.

Infectious diseases cause most deaths of Indian children under five

India has reduced its child mortality rate by 55% in the last two decades, from 88 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017, according to the data from this 2018 report. Yet, it is behind the Millennium Development Goal of 25 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births.

These deaths are mostly attributed to preventable infectious diseases, followed by injuries, meningitis, measles and malaria.

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

Among neighbouring countries, India’s performance on under-five mortality was better only when compared to that of Pakistan (74.9). Sri Lanka (8.8), China (9.3), Bhutan (30.8), Nepal (33.7) and Bangladesh (32.4) have all outperformed India.

38.4% Indian children are stunted

Between 2000 and 2019, the prevalence of stunting–low height for age–among children below age five fell by 25% globally–from 198 million children to 149 million. More than 50% of this reduction was done by China and India alone, the report says.

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

As of 2018, 38.4% Indian children under five were stunted, the second worst performance compared to its neighbours after Pakistan (47.2%). China (8.1%) had the lowest rate in the region, followed by Sri Lanka (17.3%), Bhutan (33.6%), Nepal (35.8%), and Bangladesh (36.1%) report says.

There are wide disparities between states in India–while 48.3% children are stunted in Bihar, 45.3% in Jharkhand and 37.6% in Chhattisgarh, Kerala has the least at 19%, followed by Tamil Nadu (27.1%), according to data from the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16.

1 in 5 Indian children are out of school

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

In spite of India’s advances of giving free universal education to its children, 20.2% of them (aged 8-16) were still out of school as of 2018, according to data cited in the report. Compared to its neighbors, India performed only compared to Pakistan (40.8%), while Sri Lanka (6.4%), Nepal (13.8%), Bangladesh (17.4%), Bhutan (19.1%) and China (7.6%) did better.

Child Labour

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

As of 2018, 152 million children were still engaged in child labour around the world, the report says, adding that a hypothetical country made up only of these child labourers would rank as the world’s ninth largest by population.

Between 2000 and 2018, child marriage in India fell by 51%

India halved its number of child marriages in 18 years by 2018, while marriage rates for the poorest girls fell at least as much as everyone else, data from the report show. The decline has been fastest among girls younger than 15.

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

In the last two decades, India has worked to curb child marriage through legislation – such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, and schemes such as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (called ‘SABLA’), Kishori Shakti Yojana and Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls.

The decline is attributed to economic growth, rising rates of girls’ education and proactive investments by the government, the report says. Community-based interventions such as empowerment counseling, sexual and reproductive health information, vocational training and life-skill development for girls have also been important factors. Schemes such as conditional cash transfers to educate the girl child have also helped reduce child marriage, the report notes.

Adolescent births in India fell by 63% in 20 years 

India has managed to reduce adolescent births by 63% since 2000, which has resulted in 2 million fewer young mothers. Progress in India alone accounts for nearly three-quarters of the global reduction in adolescent births–from 16 million to 13 million.

Child-bearing at a young age not only has fatal consequences for the baby but also for the mother, and makes for the leading cause of death for girls between 14 and 19 years of age.

Much of India’s progress has been the result of its social welfare programmes that has enabled more girls to stay in school, and increased access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Source: Global Childhood Report 2019, Save the Children

As of 2018, adolescent birth rate–that is, births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years–in India was 24.5, higher than that in China (6.5), Sri Lanka (14.8) and Bhutan (22.1), and better than that of Pakistan (37.7), Nepal (62.1) and Bangladesh (84.4).

Suggestions based on the report

  • An increase in public investments, and intervention through programmes targeted at marginalised children to ensure universal healthcare and education are available to help improve the well-being of children.
  • A minimum financial security for all children through child-sensitive social protection needs to be on the government’s agenda, along with adopting a national action plan to reduce and eliminate child poverty, together with dedicated budgets and monitoring systems that track improvements in poverty-related deprivations, which will help achieve better childhood outcomes.
  • Make current investments in nutrition more targeted and effective through better tracking, analysis and reporting, ensuring they are age- and gender-responsive, by building strong accountability mechanisms to ensure investments reach those that are most vulnerable and in need.
  • Ensure development and implementation of costed national action plans to end child marriage and ensure the meaningful participation and engagement of girls and community leaders – traditional and religious – in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such plans.
  • Accelerate action to address child marriage at national, regional, and international levels through the utilization of transparent accountability mechanisms. 


Image Source: Pixabay. Image is for representational purposes only. 
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