Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Hunger in rural India
We're up early again this morning driving out to a rural part of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP). We've come to MP because it has the unfortunate distinction of being the worst region of India when it comes to ranking malnutrition in kids under six. Malnutrition not only kills children but severely stunts physical and mental development in older years and hurts productivity.
To put just how bad the situation is here into context, 60 percent of young children suffer from malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh (according to UNICEF). Compare that with Ethiopia, which has 47percent.
We took the train from Delhi yesterday and travelled several hours by jeep to get out to some remote tribal hamlets. There is a superstition that prevents some mothers from breastfeeding a few days after pregnancy which can hurt the child. There is also a general lack of information in some of these rural areas which magnifies the problem.
From a journalist story-telling perspective, this story presents several challenges. This is such a huge issue - with so far to go - but how do I make little Rahul's story (a stick-thin baby we met in a critical care unit yesterday) different from all of the other stories of kids starving around the world?
It's powerful to be there - to meet little Rahul and his parents who've lost two other kids due to malnutrition. But, for many in the world, the idea that there are starving children in India isn't "news". The challenge will be to find a way to tell this story so that it sticks out from the rest. I'm not sure that I've figured that out yet.
I have another day of shooting ahead and hours and hours of travelling down dusty, back roads in order to do it.
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