Girl Child Still Languishes in India

Study finds girl child is more neglected than a boy, especially, if she is a third or fourth girl child in a family.

Published
India
2 min read
Two-month-old Jyoti lies in a bed in a malnutrition intensive care unit in Dharbhanga Medical College in Dharbhanga in the eastern state of Bihar. (Photo: Reuters)

India is an emerging superpower but not all are fortunate enough to avail the benefits of that. As per a study done by Reuters, government figures say that close to 50 per cent of children under five years do not have the desired weight. What is more saddening is majority of thee malnourished children are girls who are either not given proper food, attention or care because yes you caught it right – they are girls!

A healthy, five-month-old baby should weigh at least 5 kilograms (11lb), but we come across two-year-olds weighing that.
—Ziaul Haque, medical activities manager for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) India, which runs the centre in Dharbhanga district.

“Girls constitute more than two-thirds of patients, who are admitted and also those who drop out before completing the treatment,” he added.

3 Million Children Die Annually

A newly born infant in a village of India. Male birth is still celebrated more. (Photo: Reuters)
A newly born infant in a village of India. Male birth is still celebrated more. (Photo: Reuters)

The Reuters study also shows that child malnutrition has taken such shape that now 3 million children die annually across the world and nearly half of all child deaths are from preventable illnesses like diarrhoea. This happens because of weak immune systems, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Those who survive do not have proper growth and are unable to perform the basic tasks. Their physical, academic or economic potential do not take proper shape.

Overall, a girl child is far more neglected than a boy, especially, if she is a third or fourth girl child in the family.
—Dipa Sinha, an activist with the Right to Food campaign.

‘Who Cares? The Girls Can Die’

 A medical worker administers polio drops to an infant at a hospital during the pulse polio immunization programme in Agartala. (Photo: Reuters)
A medical worker administers polio drops to an infant at a hospital during the pulse polio immunization programme in Agartala. (Photo: Reuters)

The centre is the only one in the district to offer therapeutic food for acutely malnourished children and has a 30-bed intensive care unit to treat tubercular infections, anaemia and respiratory diseases.

But even when girls start receiving the free treatment, they have a higher rate of drop-out compared to boys.

When we try to counsel parents to admit acutely malnourished children, a typical father says ‘Who cares? The girls can die.
Ziaul Haque

Haque also added that more than 50 percent of drop-outs at the centre are girls.

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