More than eight million children under 6 live in approximately 49,000 slums across India and a new report ‘Forgotten voices- the world of urban children living in India’ released today does a reality check saying that they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a variety of risks.
Every fourth child in India (27.4 per cent of total children) lives in urban areas. Also, in comparison to 2001, the number of children (0-6) in urban areas has increased by 10.3 per cent, while in rural areas it has decreased by 7 per cent. This makes urban children and youth a very important segment deserving focused attention.
Every eighth urban child (0-6 years) also lives in slums, often situated next to high-rises and swanky malls. Keeping this in mind, a smart city cannot be a city meant for investors, tax-paying classes and gadget users only. It has to be a ‘city with a heart’, a city that is inclusive and just. The challenge is to make cities child friendly, says the report released by PwC and Save the children- that works in 120 countries and across 17 states in India.
In health matters, while there has been an improvement in mortality rates from the previous decade, data indicates that all childhood mortality indicators among the urban poor (under-5 mortality rate, infant mortality rate, and neonatal mortality rate) are higher as compared to the overall urban averages. Children living in slums are 1.3 times more likely to suffer from diarrhoea than in non-slum areas, says the report – a copy of which is with The Indian Express.
Though the urban population in India has better access to sanitation, coverage is failing to keep up with the population growth — one in five households in India do not have a household toilet.
Again in urban India, over 32 per cent children under five years of age are underweight and 39.6 percent are stunted. Wealth-related inequity is evident as six out of 10 children under five years are stunted in the lowest wealth index as compared to 2.5 out of 10 children in the highest index. Also, 21.5 percent new-borns have low birth weight.
Another emerging problem is the rising prevalence of child obesity, especially in the middle and upper middle classes. Research shows that in the private schools of Delhi, 29 to 32 percent of children (14-18 years) are overweight. While approximately 27.4 percent children in the age group of seven to 18 years reside here, only 17 percent schools are located in urban areas.
There was a 24 percent increase in crimes against children between 2010 and 2011 and a further 52.5 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. Highly urbanised states such as Delhi and Maharashtra are third and fourth in the list of states where most of these crimes take place.. A large number of children work as domestic helps. A study of this segment indicates that almost 70 percent children reported physical abuse, slapping, kicking, burns, etc and 32.2 percent reported sexual abuse.
Referring to the Disaster Management Act the report said it does not make any references to vulnerable groups, such as children. District disaster management plans do not provide age-disaggregated data. The government does not recognise heat and cold waves, major causes of death among the urban homeless, as a calamity.(ends)