When most of us take time to think of extreme poverty, we immediately think of the starving children in Africa. However, poverty is also an oppressive burden on India. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than half of the world’s poorest people reside in South Asia. Recent studies indicate 51 percent or 844 million of the world’s poorest people live in India as compared to 28 percent or 458 million people living in poverty in Africa. Extreme poverty in 8 India states exceeds that of 26 of the poorest African countries. |
The international poverty standard is set at $1.25 US per day. The World Bank reports that 32.7 percent of the total Indian population falls below the poverty benchmark while an estimated 68.7 percent of the people in India live on less than $ 2 US per day.
Severe poverty is accompanied by chronic hunger, which sadly most strongly impacts women and children. As long as India is home to people that literally starve to death for lack of food, the country cannot truly call itself a developed nation. The latest United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) statistics tell the heartbreaking story; more than 1.5 million Indian children are malnourished with up to 50 percent of that number under 5 years of age and severely underweight. The UWFP study indicates that greater than 350 million people in India, or roughly 36 percent of the Indian population, are food insecure and consume less than 80 percent of their total energy requirements. The poor health of many Indian children is attributed not just to lack of nutritional food and poor hygiene but because any Indian women do not know the benefits of breast-feeding. In 11 Indian states, up to 80 percent of the children are anemic. An estimated 60,000 children are said to be HIV positive. UNICEF estimates that one out of every three malnourished children resides in India. Worldwide, 27 percent of all maternal deaths occur in India.
Women are the most disadvantaged people in Indian society, There is no equality amongst women; their status dependent on ethnic background and social class. Many girls and young women are forced into early marriages, abused and treated as second-class citizens. Young women are especially vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS virus rapidly spreading from urban to rural areas. Boys can help support the family, while girls are a financial drain. Families in India on average abort female children at a substantially higher rate than male children. The British Medical Journal recently reported at as many as 12 million female fetuses have been aborted during the past three decades.
High rates of literacy, limited access to social services, inadequate nutrition and poor healthcare is common among the impoverished in both urban and rural areas. The majority of people living in rural lands does not own their own land or even have the right to live or farm the land they live on. The heavy blanket of poverty that lies over much of India's rural population is especially depressing: poverty dehumanizes people when they lack the self-sufficiency and resources to remedy their situation. People loose hope.
India born billionaire entrepreneur Tej Kohli, visionary philanthropist and founder of the Tej Kohli Foundation is determined do help alleviate poverty in India by providing children, expectant mothers and adolescent girls with a balanced diet to eradicate the major causes of malnutrition in the country.
Tej Kohli believes “All children in India must complete their elementary education if India’s dreams of a better future are to be realized for everyone. While the Foundation supports the passing of India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in 2009, which creates an opportunity for children who cannot afford to pay school fees to receive an education, the Foundation also recognizes that the law is not enough. Challenges to universal education still exist. A shortage of qualified teachers and facilities is a major problem, as are the economic status of the child’s parents and the wider community.”
The Tej Kohli Foundation is dedicated to philanthropic projects that aim to help each and every child complete their elementary education. It has begun supplementary programs that are aimed at helping children develop specialized skills in their areas of interest. The Foundation also supports charities that provide pre-school facilities and offers financial support to underprivileged students to enable them to join institutions of higher education.
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