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Despite Economic Growth, Malnutrition Is Significant In India: Study

New Delhi : Despite significant economic growth, more than one-fourth of 15-year-old children continued to suffer from malnutrition--28% stunting and 25% thinness in India, though a considerable reduction has seen in malnutrition in 2016 compared to 15-year-olds in 2009 (28% compared to 36%). Significant inequalities persist in malnutrition status across socio-economic groups, according to the round 5 of the longitudinal study of childhood poverty.

The results of the Round 5 of the study released today, 17% of Other Caste children were stunted in 2016 compared to 37% of Scheduled Caste children.

The food intake of children is changing over time. In 2016, 56% of younger cohort children had eaten pulses, legumes and nuts within the previous 24 hours, which is a substantial increase from 32% in 2009 for children of the same age. Socially marginalised groups and the poorest households need to be targeted in efforts to reduce malnutrition, the study has recommended.

Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in four countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) over fifteen year.

Overall, there is an increase in average wealth over time with the highest percentage change between Round 1 (2002) and Round 5 (2016) for Scheduled Tribes households. While differences in household wealth based on location and caste have reduced over time, substantial inequalities persist between Other Castes on the one hand and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on the other.The highest percentage change in access to services is seen among Scheduled Tribes, in rural households, and in households where mothers had no formal education. The largest change is seen in the average access to consumer durables, particularly among Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, households from rural areas, and where mothers had no formal education.By 2016, access to safe drinking water and electricity is near universal across all locations.Only half of households have access to sanitation. Although there have been improvements since 2002, access to sanitation facilities remains at 30% among Scheduled Tribes compared to 55% for the other three caste groups, and 31% in rural areas compared to 95% in urban areas. More households report vulnerability to economic shocks in 2016 than in 2006, the report says.

As high as 91% of 15-year-old children were enrolled in secondary schools in 2016, up from 78% for 15-year-olds in 2009.The increase in enrolment was particularly significant for girls and Backward Class (BC) children, with 90% of 15-year-old girls enrolled in 2016 (compared with 74% in 2009) and 91% of BC children (compared with 76% in 2009).The number of children attending private schools marginally increased from 35% in 2009 to 37% in 2016.The private school enrolment in 2016 remains biased towards boys (41%), Other Castes (62%), the top wealth tercile (62%), and urban children (64%).The learning levels of 15-year olds in 2016 (for the same mathematics question) did not show improvement, compared to 15-year olds in 2009.

A substantial difference in the rate of enrolment in education and training at age 22 exists between young men (26%) and young women (16%). While 35% of young people had either completed or were pursuing higher education at age 22, 22% of the older cohort had had not been educated beyond primary or upper primary level. More men (76%) were engaged in economic activity by age 22 than women of the same age (47%). This was paralleled by more women (56%) than men (11%) being married, the highest rates being among Backward Class (54%) and rural young women (66%). Participation in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors combined is significantly higher among Scheduled Castes (70%), poorer households or bottom wealth tercile households (81%) and those living in rural locations (68%). Around 18% of 22-year-olds are using computers, 4% tablets, and 21% internet, and 34% are using mobile phones with internet access, although there are substantial gender and socio-economic inequalities. The use of mobile phones with internet access is three times higher among youth from top wealth tercile households (55%), than among youth from bottom wealth tercile households (17%).

While sharing the key findings from longitudinal study, Dr. Renu Singh, Country Director, Young Lives India, said that five rounds of data have shown that there has been an increase in wealth index across all households, inequities still exist between Other Castes on the one hand and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on the other.

“Learning levels have showed no improvement, and is a matter of concern. At 22, we find that 61% percent of the 22-year olds engaged in both agricultural and non-agricultural work, 56% young women married and only 16% still studying. The gender inequity in access to technology is also an area that needs to be addressed,’’ she added.

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