How Labour Conditions at Construction Sites are Leading to Higher Rates of Child Malnutrition

Baby in basket in construction site

Divya Ravindranath, Sep 27 2019

This commentary focuses on female workers in construction sites in India, and the impact of mothers’ work on the health and nutrition of their children. The sector provides good opportunities for work, but it also affects children’s health outcomes.

“A study of 131 migrant children living at various construction sites in Ahmedabad showed that half of the children surveyed were underweight (low weight for age), 41% were stunted (low height for age) and 22% were wasted (low weight for height). According to the National Family Health Survey (2015-’16), 35.5% of children under the age of five in the country are underweight, 38.4% are stunted, 21% are wasted.”

The article highlights various reasons why children are in this condition. Mothers do not have time or comfortable environments to breastfeed exclusively, and can also have difficulty finding the time to wean at the proper age. Mothers don’t have access to affordable, healthy food, so older children eat a lot of packaged food. The water in construction sites is often contaminated and not potable. Utilizing health services means taking time off work, which results in a loss of wages.

The author argues that NGO’s can be one way to help alleviate the situation, but they can be difficult to access as well. Dr Ravindranath’s main recommendation is that “it is also critical to view the role of parental work environment and migration as factors contributing to undernutrition. Policies and interventions designed to address undernutrition must consider these as key factors without which such children would continue to be denied a chance of improved nutrition and better health.”

Read full commentary here

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