India’s lack of toilets and poor access to sanitation are holding back its children, causing stunted growth and curbing their development, a new report says.
Is India Winning the Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition?
Why Is Indian Children’s Growth So Stunted? It’s Not Why You ThinkT
India also has 774 million people without access to adequate sanitation, and 76 million without safe water, the report said.
Children who are stunted because of malnutrition tend to be shorter and lag behind their peers cognitively. Poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene cause diarrhea and expose children to other intestinal infections during the crucial first two years of life.
Around 140,000 under-fives die in India every year because of diarrhea and other diseases caused by lack of access to these basic services, the report said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in the past that he would rather build toilets than temples — setting a goal for every home in the country to have a place to go to the bathroom by 2019. But the program has suffered challenges: some Indians prefer to relieve themselves outdoors.
India is making some progress, however. The report said the percentage of its children who were stunted reduced from 48% in 2006 to 39% in 2014, the year Mr. Modi came to power.
Pakistan, India’s closest neighbor, ranked third with more than 9.8 million children who are stunted, according to the WaterAid study.