There are huge disparities across Indian states in the health and well-being of children, according to the India Child Well-Being Report 2020, released by Chennai-based NGO World Vision India last week. The report says India scores low on several health parameters across various districts.
The report has adopted American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s capability approach to measure the well-being of children in India. Using capabilities identified by Nussbaum, an index was constructed to define and capture the multi dimensionality of child well-being. It uses several parameters to measure the well-being of a child, like bodily health, bodily integrity, senses, imagination, thoughts, emotions, practical reason, affiliation, play, and control over one’s environment.
In the year 2019, about 363.1 million Indian children were in the age group between 0-14 years. To calculate the index, data was drawn for 99 indicators from the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4, 2015-16), Census 2011, National Sample Survey, Socio-economic and Caste Census 2011, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Annual Status of Education Report, and the National Crime Records Bureau.
(Composite index of child well-being in 640 districts across India.)
The report divided India into six regions. It was found that south India performed relatively better on the Child Well-Being index. High child well-being index values of the top five districts in this region can be attributed to good performance in the dimensions of life, bodily health, bodily integrity, senses, imagination and thought; and play.
The five top performing districts of the western region scored high child well-being index values due to their good performance in bodily health, bodily integrity, and senses, imagination and thought. In the north, the dimensions of bodily health; bodily integrity; senses, imagination and thought; and play contributed to the high child well-being index values of the top five districts. The districts in the east recorded high child well-being index values wherein the top five districts performed well in the dimensions of life, bodily health and bodily integrity.
The north-east registered an average performance in the child well-being index. The dimensions of life, bodily health, practical reason, affiliation and control over one’s environment primarily contributed to the top five districts’ better performance in this region. In the central region, the child well-being index values of the top five districts were contributed to by the dimensions of life, bodily health, bodily integrity and senses, imagination, and thought.
Of the ten districts that performed the best on the Child Well-Being index, three are in Kerala. According to the report, districts in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir lead the composite index score of Child Well-Being, whereas districts in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh scored low on the index.
Districts in Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar scored low on several indicators such as sex ratio among children less than six years of age, birth weight, infant mortality and under-five mortality rate in life dimension.
Districts in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram scored relatively higher while those in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh had lower scores for bodily health dimension for nutrition. Chandigarh (UT), Himachal Pradesh, Delhi (UT) and Kerala scored high scores in senses, imagination and thought dimension for educational aspects.
Madhav Bellamkonda, National Director and CEO, World Vision India said: “Investments in early childhood development are pertinent for a better tomorrow for our children, especially at a time where uncertainty has intensified around us. Child Well-Being is an important conversation in the development sector and it is critical that we understand it in a holistic manner. We are confident that this report will serve as a guide for policymakers, practitioners and civil societies to understand Child Well-Being and develop child-friendly policies.”