Monday, February 19, 2007

The plight of India’s children

Two recent reports have come out of India related to children’s issues and intervention: one report deals with the ongoing problem of Indian girls, and the other report details widespread lack of nourishment among Indian children. These reports give a bit more context to the resistance that caregivers face in providing care to these at risk children. The same cultural dynamics that place Indian children at risk also resist the care options for these children, especially girls…

A cry of girls at risk

The first article is somewhat hopeful, as India's central government tacitly acknowledges a deep problem. It plans a serious of “cradle orphanages,” where unwanted baby girls can be raised – hoping to stem the tide of widespread female feticide. Research shows that more than 10 million Indian girls have been killed in the last two decades, via abortion and infanticide.

Renuka Chowdhury, the minister of state for women and child development, has taken this issue to heart. She notes that female feticide is producing an alarming imbalance between males and females, and hopes to offer a solution. Thankfully, Renuka is outspoken on this issue, and we can only pray for others to follow her lead.

The last line in the Detroit News article states the underlying issue: destruction of girls “stems from the low value attached to females in Indian society.”

It is a deadly serious issue. India’s Hindu culture struggles with the results of its own prejudice, and now faces a painful truth: Any society that devalues its girls devalues itself.

A story of malnourished children

A second article details figures from India's National Family Health Survey, showing that nearly half of India’s children are malnourished. This puts India, now the most populous country, ‘in the same league as some of the world’s poorest countries.’

India has made dramatic strides on the world stage, enjoying a technological and economic boom – and yet these economic gains are not being matched by ‘equal improvements in the health of its more than one billion people.’

This is staggering to think about, really – that a country with more than one billion people exists with half of its children malnourished. The numbers are numbing.

Werner Schultink of UNICEF concludes that India should be worried: “It’s going to be difficult for India if it wants to use its human resources to develop the nation but does not make [human] improvements.”

A chance to make a difference

Behind both of these reports lurks an underlying societal brokenness – the war on India’s children, its girls and outcastes, is a war that starts in the mind and works its way into the streets – a terrible reality.

It’s interesting that the people invested in assisting orphans and unwanted Indian children are often the same people rejected by traditional Hindu power brokers. In light of India's great orphan need, consider how Hopegivers orphanages have been treated this last year! Consider how Sam Thomas and other caregivers have been attacked, their lives threatened and ruined for trying to help the same children that others do not want! The children unfed, unclothed and outcaste, the girls devalued and thrown away… these poor girls are offered care, and yet those who give them care are viciously attacked by entrenched Hindutva leaders!

Herein is the crux of the problem. I pray that Renuka Chowdhury and the other appointed ministers of India will not overlook systemic issues, and not overlook the amazing resources already in place for helping these girls. Already there are orphanages in place, places of education and care, staffed with loving, sacrificial people… if only these orphanages could be protected from the onslaughts of entrenched traditional militants!

Here also is a path for us to help. We can do something, by supporting Hopegivers orphanages – places of light and hope for India’s children…

The sacrifices of Dr. Sam and M.A. Thomas, and the intrepid caregivers of Emmanuel Hope Home, and others in India, are not in vain.

And our gifts are not in vain, providing moments of light and salvation! Please give something today, if you can... God bless your heart and actions!


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