India has 440 million children. That’s more than the entire population of North America (USA, Mexico and Canada put together). Every fifth child in the world is Indian.
And what sort of life do these children have as they grow up? Well, they face some of the toughest challenges of anyone:
Health for Children in India
- About 27 million children are born each year in India. But nearly 2 million of them do not live to the age of five.
- Much of this is due to malnourishment. India has over 200 million people in hunger, and over 40% of the children who do live till 5 are malnourished.
- Immunization is very low by world standards.
- 79% of children under 3 have anemia. Half of children have reduced learning capacity because of iodine deficiency.
Children’s Education in India
- The majority of children are enrolled in school, but up to half don’t attend regularly. Many are pressured to work and earn money for their families (see below).
- After five years of classes, fewer than 60% can read a short story or do simple arithmetic.
Child Labour in India
- Official figures indicate that there are over 12 million child workers in India, but many NGOs reckon the real figure is up to 60 million. The number of girls involved is not much lower than the boys.
- The largest numbers work in places like textile factories, dhabas (roadside restaurants) and hotels, or as domestic workers. Much of the work, such as in firecracker or matchstick factories, can be hazardous; even if not, conditions are often appalling and simply rob kids of their childhood.
- By a law introduced in 2006, no child under 14 should work. But like many laws in India, the problem is enforcement. 2 years after the ban, the Labour Ministry had carried out 12,000 operations but only made 211 prosecutions.
Child Abuse in India
In 2007 the Indian Government published the results of one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated studies on child abuse, carried out in conjunction with Unicef and Save the Children. This detailed research on over 12,000 children produced some shocking conclusions:
- Two thirds of children are victims of physical abuse. The majority are beaten in school, and over half have to work seven days a week.
- Over 50% have faced some kind of sexual abuse, and over 20% of them severe abuse.
- Half of children also face emotional abuse.