Indian cinema recently completed 100 years, during which time it has given us many classics. The one thing common to all of them is the harmony among the various elements of filmmaking such as scriptwriting, direction, acting, music and lyrics. The legacy of these classics is one which immortalises this harmony, a direct result of the devotion that every crew-member brought along to create magic through celluloid.
We need a healthy dollop of the same magic in dealing with any endeavour, including child mortality. India accounts for 21% of the global burden of child deaths, most of which are due to preventable causes such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Ensuring that our children are able to not just survive but thrive is indeed a beautiful canvas that we all have to strive to put together. The World Immunisation Week, which is being observed between April 24 and 30, is an opportunity to reiterate this message.
It’s not just known public figures who can contribute to rectifying India’s dismal record in providing a healthy childhood to its children. To better our child survival outcomes, various stakeholders will need to work in unison. These stakeholders, including the government, frontline health workers, community heads, political leaders, and, most importantly, parents, must complement each other and help spread awareness about child health interventions such as immunisation, which can help us in curtailing our child mortality numbers.
The Centre has taken the first step in this direction. It recently launched Mission Indradhanush to immunise unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and pregnant women. With national immunisation coverage rates still hovering around 65%, the government has rolled out this mission with an aim of achieving full coverage by 2020. The frontline health workers are already spreading out throughout the government-identified high-priority districts to mobilise parents and community leaders to help bring children and pregnant women to the nearest health clinics to get free vaccine shots against deadly infectious diseases.
It is indeed a great honour for me that the ministry of health and family welfare decided to include a song composed by me, called ‘Phool Khil Jayenge’, in its mass media campaign for Mission Indradhanush. However, parents are the most important determinants behind the success or failure of immunisation programmes as they are the sole decision-makers of their children’s health status. Parents as willing participants in government immunisation programmes will go a long way in improving our child health outcomes.
If we are to proudly proclaim tomorrow that India has been able to meet its development goals, we must reduce child mortality in India and we must come together to meet this challenge head on.
Therefore, parents should immunise their children against life-threatening diseases. In the healthy and content future of India’s children lies the country’s glory.
The health workers are already providing you the tools through immunisation programmes but it is up to you to use them. So go out, get your children vaccinated. And let the message of ‘Phool Khil Jayenge’ come true.
Javed Akhtar is a lyricist and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal