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Church takes lead on health issues

Most kids and women in the country suffer from anemia

Rita Joseph, New Delhi

April 7, 2011

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As the world celebrated Health Day today, in India health is a subject of major concern with over half the female population and 70 percent of children under five suffering from anemia. The federal government accords health-related issues a low priority, so the Church has taken a major step by empowering grass-root people to get their rights to food, health and education. The Church is the second largest health provider after the government and has always been in the forefront in the fight against malnutrition, says Father Mathew Abraham, Secretary, Health Care, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI). According to a recent study by Harvard School of Public Health, malnutrition in children under 3 is on the rise. The health sector is dominated by private players. Almost 80 percent are private-owned hospitals and beyond the reach of the poor, he says. “Christians are just under two per cent of the population. Yet we are doing our best,” says Father Abraham. The Christian Health Association of India has a network of 3,306 hospitals and clinics throughout the country. “ We liase with the government to help in the implementation of National Rural Health Mission, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Revised Tubercuolosis Program and the like”. Swami Agnivesh, a social activist and anti-child labor campaigner, says the minimum wage should be increased to a decent level and the poor given purchasing power, if the situation is to improve. Father Charles Irudayam, secretary of CBCI’s Justice, Peace and Development Commission, says since March, 2008 the commission has been working hard to provide food security to the poor in 20 Indian states. The CBCI disseminates information on child, women and pension rights and other government schemes.  Over a three-year period it has trained 37,700 field workers, including 29,000 women, for the purpose. The Harvard study analysed economic and children’s growth pattern based on  three National Family Health Surveys (1992-2006) which had revealed that 70 per cent of the children in the 6-59 months age group and 55 per cent of women in India are anemic. Father Abraham concluded that society, all religions and NGOs should work together to mitigate the problem. Related reports Christian health workers offer cautious welcome to federal health policy IC13898
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