UNICEF and Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) are bound by institutional collaborations as they share a common vision to reach the Millennium Development Goal’s target of reducing 2/3rd mortality in children below age of five. Besides, for any plan to succeed, government alone cannot work, nor can UNICEF, says Country chief health of UNICEF Dr Marzio Babille in an interview TO Hindustan Times. Exerpts
What are the demographic and economic factors apart from the geography of the region that UNICEF takes into consideration for planning programmes in India?
Mortality pattern changes from state to state. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa are the five states that contribute to 60 per cent mortality for children below five years. With large children population, like in Uttar Pradesh, we have a different strategy. We also found that some states have a very low capacity of the system to deliver results.
What is the present focus in case of child health?
We have IMNCI (Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses) wherein IAP and UNICEF are training workers in 70 districts, which have high mortality rate. Diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition are the main causes of mortality and morbidity in India.
What has been UNICEF’s fund allocation for India’s IAP programmes?
We have set aside funds to the tune of USD 100,000 approximately to support IAP initiatives.
What are other UNICEF programmes in India in general and Madhya Pradesh in particular?
We have a range of interventions in different parts of India like monitoring, survey, providing data and most important annual coverage of immunisation and evaluation. We also give data evidence to be used for policy making. Then we are promoting use of zinc in management of diarrhoea with Ministry of Health.
In Madhya Pradesh, apart from programmes for child survival, reduction in malnutrition, immunisation and maternal care, we have focussed activity in Tikamgarh, Guna and Sheopur aimed at providing first referral unit for child and maternal care. Recently, we provided the six-fold ‘Mother and Child Card’, which is being used all across the state as part of the Bal Sanjeevani Abhiyan.
What have been the hurdles so far?
Main is access. The marginalised and those in geographically remote areas do not have access to health facilities. We need to bridge this gap. We also need to have more equitable coverage when it comes to deprived children and treat it as a child’s right to survival. Change takes place at its pace. We need to modernise the system for better delivery and also need to prioritise the settings.