Understanding child hunger and its dire implications on a developing nation
When we think about hunger, the first place our mind goes to is a starving child. While it is certainly unsettling, this immediate connection isn’t unfounded; nearly 33 lakh children in India are malnourished, and 17.7 lakh of them are severely malnourished.
Hunger isn’t just the act of a missed meal or the feeling of a grumbling stomach. A child goes hungry, when he/she is unable to access nutritious food required to help them grow into healthy adults. Children who suffer from hunger long-term go on to become malnourished, which affects them physically, mentally, and socially.
A hungry child struggles with concentrating, or even attending classes, in school. Once they grow up, this inadequate education makes it harder for them to get jobs that can provide for themselves and their families.
As they struggle financially as adults, their children are also likely to suffer from food insecurity, thus, creating a never-ending loop of hunger and poverty.
What causes a child to go hungry?
The major contributor to hunger has always been poverty; with millions of families living below the poverty line, they lack the resources to meet their basic needs like food, shelter, and water.
There is also a lack of knowledge about nutritious food and feeding practices that causes malnutrition. Even if a child is receiving food, it might not be the right type of food they need to develop.
A malnourished mother inevitably gives birth to an undernourished baby, perpetuating an intergenerational system of hunger and malnutrition. Many women in India are at risk of not receiving the proper nutrition that would allow them and their babies to grow and develop into healthy beings. Receiving appropriate nutrition from the time the mother’s pregnancy begins to the child’s second birthday is the most critical window for proper nourishment. This phase determines the child’s survival, ability to grow, and brain development.
What happens when a child does not receive proper nutrition?
When a child doesn’t receive adequate nutrition, especially in their formative years, the physical indicators are the first to be noticed. At 35.5%, India has an unacceptably high level of child stunting, which refers to the condition of being low-height for age. And 19.3% of children are wasted (too thin for their height).
The second layer of malnutrition in children is mental; an undernourished child suffers from poor cognitive functioning and it affects their performance in school as they cannot retain information. Hunger also causes the child to be distracted and disinterested in what is going on around them. This stunts their education, leading to poorer scores in exams, and no interest in academics.
Perhaps an invisible layer of malnutrition in a child’s development is the impact it has on an emotional level. A hungry child often feels tired and irritable, they are unable to participate in social settings in a positive manner which means they do not form the necessary emotional bonds with their peers that is key to developing a healthy outlook towards life. Hunger makes a child feel resigned to a state of hunger, which breeds a feeling of indifference towards their lack of opportunities.
To summarise, a child who is malnourished has less potential to develop a healthy future. On an individual level, this child would then grow up and have lesser chances of breaking the cycle of poverty as he or she would have lower earning potential.
On a larger scale, this lack of proper development also affects the future of the country as the young minds who could help transform and lead the country, are threatened with hunger. They would contribute less due to limited skill sets caused by impaired cognitive skills.
At Feeding India, under the Daily Feeding Program, we put a special emphasis on providing daily meal support to children from underserved communities to help them grow and thrive. For this program, we are collaborating with local and credible organisations that are transforming the lives of many children through education and skill development.
The goal isn’t just to provide food to children, it’s also to provide them with the right nutrition through these meals which would facilitate their healthy development.
Children are the future of the country, and without providing a way for them to thrive and grow, the nation cannot progress.
You can contribute to making sure the future of our country does not go hungry by visiting here.
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Registered as Hunger Heroes under Indian Society Registration Act XXI, 1860. All donations are tax-exempted as eligible under Section 80G of The Income-tax Act, 1961.