Thursday, February 08, 2007
Hunger in India II
Madhya Pradesh, India -
We're rushing to try to make our train back to Delhi but perhaps typing on my blackberry will take my mind off of the hair-raising drive. Since I moved to India nine months ago to take this job, I think I've grown immune to the sound of honking horns.
We just left a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh, a state within India south of Delhi, where we really got a sense for the challenges of fighting malnutrition in this country. UNICEF, the UN body, estimates there are almost four million children suffering from malnutrition in this one state! We met a young mother, Gita, and her 10 month-old daughter. Her daughter suffers from grade 4 (severe) malnutrition. The daughter, Kalpana, has boils on her head and the tiniest legs and arms one could imagine. Gita knows her daughter is malnourished (she feeds her only milk and biscuits) but says she can't take her to a clinic to get help because her husband just won't let her. When I ask her if she knows that malnutrition could kill Kalpana, she answers simply, "yes". I ask her if her husband knows this could kill her and she says yes - her husband told her that if their daughter dies, "just let her".
This exemplifies several issues, one being the overwhelming preference for boys over girl children in these remote regions of the country. Also, that even if some of the severely malnourished can be identified - cultural and logistical barriers can prevent them from getting help
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