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India's adolescent motherhood causes $7.7 billion loss to economy, country ranks 116 in childhood index: Report

By Our Representative
A recent report by Save the Children has ranked India 116th in the End of Childhood Index, worse than the other four BRICS countries. Ranking Brazil 89th, Russia 37th, China 41st and South Africa 103rd, the report, titled “Stolen Childhoods", says that India would gain a whopping 7.7 billion dollars if adolescent girls wait until their early 20s to become mothers, and  are gainfully employed.
Ranking 172 countries and using indicators such as under-5 mortality, malnutrition that stunts growth, out-of-school children, child labour, early marriage, adolescent births, displacement by conflict and child homicide, the report by the top international NGO says that India’s “adolescent birth rate” is 23.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19.
Pointing out that 21.1% of adolescent girls aged 15-19 are married in India, the report says,other factors which retard the country’s international ranking include factors like under-5 mortality rate of 47.7 (deaths per 1,000 live births), child stunting rate of 38.7% children aged 0-59 months, out-of-school children of primary and secondary school age (18.6%), and children engaged in child labour (11.8% ages 5-14).
According to the report, “Half of all adolescent births occur in just seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.”
It adds, “The End of Childhood Index shows how the contexts of these births differ. The link between early marriage and early motherhood is strong in Asia and parts of Africa, but having a child outside of marriage is not uncommon in many high-income or Latin American and Caribbean countries.”

India's ranking in childhood index
The only consolation for India is, two major Indian neighbours rank worse than India in the End of Children index – Pakistan Pakistan 148th and Bangladesh 134th, though Sri Lanka ranks far better than India (61st).
Pointing out that stunting is “caused by, and contributes to, vicious intergenerational cycles of poverty”, the report regrets, India has the highest number of stunted children in the world – 48.2 million out of 156 million worldwide.
In percentage terms, the report says, India’s nearly 39% stunted children is better than Pakistan (45%) but worse than Bangladesh (38%). Providing a comparison, the report adds, in Kenya, 26 percent of children are stunted, in Uganda 34 percent, in Malawi 37 percent, and in Yemen 47 percent.
“Mothers who are undernourished are more likely to have undernourished children”, the report says, adding “Stunted children often perform poorly in school and have fewer professional opportunities later in life, so they earn less, and perpetuate poverty in their families. Low income, lack of health care and reduced access to proper nutrition will continue to impact their children.”
In the End of Childhood Index, Norway, Slovenia and Finland top the rankings. The United States ranks 36th. Niger ranks last among the countries surveyed. The 10 bottom-ranked countries – seven from West and Central Africa – are a reverse image of the top, performing poorly on most indicators. “Children in these countries are the least likely to fully experience childhood, a time that should be dedicated to emotional, social and physical development, as well as play”, the report states.
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