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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sickly Truth: Half of India's women are anemic, malnourished

Indian Women: First to cook, Last to eat
Eight years ago, a friend of mine – pregnant with her second child - died. Her family had a herd of cows and enough land to grow their own food. But my friend died of malnutrition. I still remember her stick-like hands and legs. There was food, but the distribution system was wrong. A health report made public this week just made me feel her death all over again. 



This is something no Indian would feel proud of: over a half of the nation’s women suffer from anemia, particularly those belonging to the marginalized communities. The India Human Development Report 2011, made public this week has revealed this damning fact.
The "India Human Development Report 2011", prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower research, a Planning Commission body, says there is an increasing trend of anemia among women of tribal, Muslim and Dalit communities. Ironically, India is one of the few countries to have a robust National Rural Health Mission in place. The nation's.health budget is currently $5.9 million.
Now, anemia isn’t the only sickness Indian women are suffering from. An alarmingly high number of women also have acute malnutrition – having BMI less than 18.5. Here again the number of women suffering from malnutrition is greater in the marginalized communities than that of women in other communities. In two states - Bihar and Orissa (eastern India), over 50% women from marginalized communities are malnourished.
According to the WHO, if 40% or more of the population has a BMI less than 18.5, it is regarded as a state of famine. “By WHO’s standards, India is in a state of famine,” reads the report.

Eight years after my friend died, things are still just as flawed. If she had lived, my friend would still be as sick as she was then.

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