Walking through the serene countryside of Maharashtra, India, it's hard to believe that just three hours drive away lies the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, where traffic and pollution choke a crowded city. Here, in the region of Palghar, rolling hills and thick vegetation line the landscape, as lakes quietly reflect the afternoon sky. Looking out at the cloudless horizon, the view is difficult to reconcile with the building at the end of the long, narrow lane.
This is the Palghar malnutrition camp. Quiet and resolute, the simple, two-storey building serves as a chilling reminder that life in rural India is far from peaceful. In 2016, this camp saved the lives of 265 children. It was not able to save approximately 600 others, who died from malnutrition in the region.
Malnourishment is a condition resulting from lack of a nutritious diet. Distinct from starvation, malnourishment is a slower and less conspicuous process which does not necessarily involve extreme hunger, but threatens lives all the same. It has been shown to increase susceptibility to serious illness, reduce children’s ability to learn and attend school, and decrease their productivity later in life.
In the world, a third of all stunted children are Indian. This includes more than 60 million children under five years old.*
Malnourishment in rural India is a quiet epidemic, often disproportionately affecting tribal or marginalised peoples. The children at Palghar's malnutrition camp are wide-eyed and lively, dressed in bright colours and playing contentedly beside their mothers. They are not yet aware of how much everyone around them is passionately defending their survival.
*According to Unicef statistics from 2013.