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Now, Kerala church to help family 'unplanning'

Now, Kerala church to help family 'unplanning'

Author: Ketaki Saksena
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 5, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/187006/Now-Kerala-church-to-help-family-'unplanning'.html

Worried by the dwindling numbers of its flock, the Catholic Church in Kerala is planning a host of schemes to promote larger families among the financially sound. Among the promotional measures would be providing educational incentives for fourth child in the family.

The Christian community has seen a decline in numbers because of smaller families over the last two generations in Independent India. "By and large, our rate of growth is the lowest amongst religious communities in the country," the Secretary General, All India Christian Council and Ex President of the All India Catholic Union, John Dayal told The Pioneer.

Catholic communities historically were large, with six to ten members till a generation ago. The figure has now come down to not more than one or two children per family. The Christian population has dropped rapidly in Kerala, Mumbai and other cities. The 2001 census shows decline of 0.32% in Christian population of the State.

Recently the church had talked of a set of medical schemes to ensure that financially sound families beget more than two children. Therefore, hospitals run by the church began offering cost effective health packages for more children.

The irony is that efforts are being made to enhance population control in a state (Kerala) that is being held as an example in effective population control. The rate of population growth has been among the lowest in the country. High literacy rate, an efficient public health system and timely pre-natal care are some of the reasons for the development in the state. The state has to its credit the achievement of wiping out child mortality by strengthening the public health system.

However, in recent years the State also witnessed a host of problems. The third National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in 2005-06 indicates chronic and acute under-nutrition among children below five years of age. The survey also mentions that even during the first six months of life when most babies are breast-fed, 14 to 16 per cent of infants are stunted or underweight and 24 per cent are wasted. Anaemia continues to be a major health problem in Kerala, with one-third of the women being anaemic, according to NFHS III. The percentage of anaemic women in the state has gone up by 10% from the last survey done in 1998-99.

The money spent on good quality nutrition is low in the State. While the Government expenditure on nutrition per child is Rs 167 in Tamil Nadu, Kerala spends just Rs 72.

Social problems add to the woes. There is rampant alcoholism in the State. Forty-five per cent of men drink, out of which 39 per cent consume alcohol at least once a week. Alcoholism has been blamed for increased domestic violence, rise in suicide rates, rapidly escalating fatal traffic crashes, loss of productivity due to illness, more premature deaths and rising crime incidence. Almost one-sixth of ever-married women in Kerala have experienced physical or sexual spousal violence. All of this has added to the worry of the Church.

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