New Delhi: Out of more than 35 million Indians who are affected by water-borne diseases annually, 1.5 million children die due to diarrhoea alone, a Centre for Science and Environment report revealed today. The latest publication 'Body Burden 2015- State of India's Health' which examines the linkage between environment and health quite comprehensively said that a number of public health catastrophes arising out of environmental reasons are staring the people of India in the face.
"The report informs that about 37.7 million Indians are affected by water-borne diseases annually. Around 1.5 million children die due to diarrhoea alone, and 73 million working days are lost due to water-borne illnesses each year. Estimates suggest India loses Rs 36,600 crore every year due to water-borne diseases," CSE said. Referring to the connection between water and sanitation and malnutrition, the report says that by 2015, the figure of malnutrition should have dropped to 26 per cent as per the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) but the country fell short of the goal by seven per cent. Notwithstanding the progress, CSE said that India still cannot answer why the malnutrition rate among its children is so high.
"The world's largest programme to tackle child malnutrition, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), has been in force in the country since 1975, much before any other country, save the US, introduced measures to tackle the problem," points out the report. Noting that malnutrition is prevalent in comparatively richer states as well, the report indicates that higher income does not necessarily correlate with better health of children. "India loses over USD 12 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies among its population.
Malnutrition is not just about access to food. "Children who are constantly exposed to faecal microorganisms demonstrate Environmental Enteric Dysfunction or EED, where the gut becomes permeable and brings microbial products in contact with blood. "This leads to activation of the immune system which down-regulates the growth factors in the body and leads to stunting. States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand where more people defecate in open, have more malnourished children, comparatively," it said.