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#Hesitant: Why isn’t India releasing report on children’s health?

Indian government withholds a report on nutrition

The Indian government has come under attack for failing to release a much-publicized report into child nutrition in the country.

The report – named the Rapid Survey of Children (RSOC) and compiled with the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF – involved taking weight measurements of tens of thousands of children right across the country and was scheduled to be released in October 2014.

Experts have described the delay in releasing the findings of the report as a “scandal”.

According to campaigners, the government’s hesitation is over fears the results may reveal that India is still hungrier than Africa.

The last such survey was published in 2007.

According to the Economist, while the RSOC has revealed improvements in some areas, it has also thrown up some worrying facts:

  • More than half of children in populous Uttar Pradesh are below normal height.
  • Among the wealthiest fifth of Indian households, more than a quarter of children are stunted.  This may be because of sexism – mothers and girls get less food, health care and education than males.
  • Over half of all girls aged 15-18 had a low body-mass index, meaning they were likelier to produce undernourished babies.
  • Though many women gave birth in institutions, fewer than half of babies were, as the WHO recommends, breastfed within an hour of birth.

Leading development economist Jean Dreze told the BBC: “All the neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Pakistan and even Afghanistan have up to date nutritional surveys,”

UNICEF meanwhile, believes the government is “reviewing the survey methodology”.

Saba Mebrahtu, Unicef’s head of nutrition in India explains that, “data is crucial for making sound evidence-based plans.

“It helps us understand what is causing under-nutrition so that interventions can be focused in those areas.”

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