A child, who learns to live on an empty stomach, if left with any luck to live, is most likely to turn into a pessimistic individual who won’t contribute to the country’s development.
Every international and state declared convention on children dictates that they be given priority in everything and that their rights and needs be fulfilled without delay. Be it the protection children require, access to education, sanitation and safe drinking water or even their right to enjoy parents’ affection, there is reason why their cries should not go unheeded. Among such essentials that go into moulding a child’s future, is the vital factor of nutrition, which if ignored is even capable of bringing the country’s future development into a standstill.
Though Sri Lanka has been boasting of its comparatively low statistics on child malnutrition, the recent reports released by the Sri Lanka Health Education Bureau indicates that the high heads will soon have to stop singing their old tune.
The report reveals that out of the children subject to the survey, 14.7 percent was underweight. These are the children of the estate workers and the shanty dwellers who are compelled to fulfill various domestic chores on an empty stomach. The morning glass of milk or the lunch provided by the state are not for them. In some cases, the ‘meal cart’ doesn’t arrive. Even if it does, the child is not privileged enough to step into the school to enjoy it.
It is in this scenario that the ‘relief bag’ (poshana malla) for the expectant mothers becomes a hot topic every five/four years. Once the election fever recedes, the bag too goes back to the store.
If the government could take steps to grant an allowance for the children of the armed forces, it is a question worth asking as to why a similar method could not be arranged for the children of the poor income families.
Whatever said to the defence of the decision-makers, it is not fair to stratify the hunger of children according to the status of their parents.
At a time when excess harvest is destroyed and milk is thrown down the gutter, the government and its fairytale policy-makers, ought to realize that filling their stomachs alone is not fulfilling the nutrition needs of the country.
No doubt, conducting awareness clinics for expectant mothers or those with infants in the rural areas is important.
Yet, paying public money for people to talk shop serves a little purpose if a woman has to go home and peep into an empty vessel.