Even as India might not rank among the list of countries with a high literacy rate, it is one among nearly 135 countries to have made education a fundamental right for every child, signifying that there is at least some attempt to make headway. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to healthcare for children. Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Child Rights, it is widely believed that the fund allocated to address health issues has not been adequate. If we take into account Census 2011, children till the age of six account for almost 13 per cent of India’s population, and now in 2022, it’s definitely high time we turned our focus more specifically on the healthcare of children in India.
“Undoubtedly the country has made rapid progress in all fields, including children’s health since Independence. However, the problems due to poverty, malnutrition, and poor sanitation persist and contribute majorly to the ailing of children and even mortality in the worst cases. If we talk about neonatal mortality in particular, the most common reasons are neonatal infections, birth asphyxia, pre-maturity and congenital malformations. Hence, any healthcare establishment dealing with birthing, infants and maternal care needs the most advanced infra to tackle the situation on ground zero,” says Nishant Gupta, who has spent more than a decade in maternal and infant care and is also the Founder and CEO of Gurugram-based Medharbour hospital.
He further explained that the “Health of the child is linked directly to the well-being of the mother and breastfeeding needs to begin within an hour of birth. The infant has to be immunized too in the first 12 months, as respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, and anemia are the leading causes of death after a year. Though socio-cultural barriers too exist in the case of girl-child, the government has launched several programs to overcome these issues, but a lot has to be done at societal and household levels too”. Referring to the different health issues concerning children, he added that while children living in poverty face hunger, illness, and insecurity, affluent children often tend to face obesity, anxiety, depression and low self esteem largely due to pressures.
Adding to the health conditions often battled by the little ones, Shraddha Soparkar, mother of a special child herself and the founder of Madhuram Charitable Trust NGO said that malnutrition remains a major challenge in the country, especially for children battling disabilities. “Children with disabilities are prone to protein energy malnutrition ten times higher than their counterparts. However, having worked closely with a number of special children over the years, we at Madhuram Charitable trust have seen healthcare getting better for them, mainly due to awareness and education. The number of paediatricians dedicated to the service of such children is increasing, which ensures timely diagnosis and treatment.”
“The last mile delivery has been improved by the national, state and local functionaries, showing promising results like elimination of polio from our country. Healthcare does not only mean high-quality medical care and infrastructure, as prevention through awareness is the key. Focus also needs to be given to the cognitive development of children through pro-active participation in sporting and extra-curricular activities such as Yoga. This helps in the overall development of children, be it physical, mental or emotional resilience or stability,” she adds.