The Union Government and United Nations Children Fund on Thursday agreed to bring Indian children out of the global hall of shame on social indicators through a five-year joint action plan. The plan aims at providing better basic facilities to children in the country’s poorest districts.
About one-fifth of the world’s children live in India. But their conditions are even worse than those in sub-Saharan Africa on many social development indicators, including nutrition and usage of sanitation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised a similar concern during his Independence Day speech when he regarded child malnutrition as the biggest curse for the nation.
21% (2m) of all child deaths under 5 years of age
23% (117,000) of maternal deaths in the world
1 in 5 kids dies of pneumonia, highest in the world
29% (240m) of population doesn’t use improved sanitation
4m children die within 28 days of being born; that’s 25% of total neo-natal deaths in the world
35% (55m) of world’s underweight children belong to India
43% (8.3m) of newborns with low weight from India
50% (410m) defecate in the open
Karen Hulsh, Unicef’s country representative, said Indian children face a number of problems, especially those belonging to the disadvantaged groups like Scheduled Castes, tribals and minority communities. “Though India is investing more on social development, the disadvantaged are yet to reap the benefits,” she said.
Committing $700 million of Unicef’s help in the next five years, she said the UN body would look at providing technological support to the government to provide tangible solutions like centres for sick new-born babies. But the emphasis would be on fulfillment of child rights, which is crucial for India’s economic and social development, she added.
While outlining government programmes for welfare of children, Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury wanted that the government, civil society and private sector should come up with out-of-box ideas to improve social indicators for women and children.
She was of the view that lack of awareness is the biggest hurdle in implementing government programmes for welfare of the deprived.
The action plan aims to lower the infant mortality rate from 58 to 28 per 1,000 and maternal mortality rate from 31 to 100 per 100,000 within next five years. Special programmes for child development and nutrition would also be run, Hulsh said.