What future holds
The child health and welfare scenario is dismal, with the country nowhere close to achieving the targets set in the 10th Five Year Plan. This, according to experts at the two-day National Consultation on Priorities for Children, organised by the Planning Commission and Unicef.
The consultation -- attended by representatives from government departments, ministries, civil society and international agencies -- will identify gaps in the 10th Plan (2002-07) and outline strategies for the 11th Plan.
"Crucial issues like deficiencies in nutrition, health and sanitation must be accorded priority... Invention of schemes to address these deficiencies is a long-standing strategy of the government. But to sit back and see what's happening, what works, what doesn't and how this can be rectified is important. We need to focus on social development and bring in resources, attention and imagination to improve results in the next plan," said Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who was the keynote speaker.
On the ambitious objective of arresting the decline in child sex ratio, a Unicef official said: "Ensuring rapid progress is made to reverse this decline requires a multi-pronged strategy with both enforcement and prevention action at its core." The other key issues being discussed are child health and HIV/AIDS, education, child protection, child development and nutrition, and safe water and sanitation.
Things may look bleak but there is hope yet. Experts say the 10th Plan needs to be read alongside the government's commitment to increasing resource allocations to the social sector. The main goals of the Common Minimum Programme include raising public spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP, with at least half to be spent on primary and second ary education; increasing public spending on health to at least 2-3 per cent of GDP over the next five years; protecting the rights of children and eliminating child labour; ensuring facilities for schooling; extending special care to the girl child.
"Greater effort and focus must be directed at enrolling everyone in the development process through improved management and provision of quality basic social services, promoting behaviour development and change, and mobilizing the community to become more involved in the management of services for children," said Unicef director Eimar Barr.
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