From an ancient shipping power to modern-day industrial state, Gujarat is known for its vibrant economy. Located on India’s west coast, the state has a bustling economy that offers families a per capita income which is higher than the national average. However, social development indicators have not been able to keep pace with economic development in this state of over 60 million people.
Almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade. Also, the preliminary results of Census 2011 show that while there has been a slight improvement in the child sex ratio (0-6 years) from 883 in 2001 to 886 today, the overall sex ratio in the state has declined from 920 to 918.
Although Gujarat is recognized as one of the most prosperous states in India with very good infrastructure of highways and ports, and strong petrochemical and automobile industries and agro products, a lot needs to be done to improve socio-development indicators. UNICEF works closely with the Government of Gujarat and civil society organizations to fulfil the rights of children.
Challenges and Opportunities
Just like the undernourished children, one mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute undernutrition. About half of these women are also anaemic, putting them at risk of problems during pregnancy, childbirth and post natal period. Lack of awareness of proper nutrition is partially responsible for this situation; only about half the mothers currently choose to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their life. This deprives children of the chance to acquire natural immunities passed on through breast milk and makes them more susceptible to common childhood diseases. Older babies are also not introduced to complementary feeding at the right age.
Key Challenges and Opportunities
• Girls are still less likely to complete their education than boys.
• During summers, some families may be seriously affected by scarcity of water. Major efforts by the state have provided piped water for about two thirds of the rural population.
• The risk of faecal contamination of water exists, since many households do not have access to toilets. Household sanitation is a major challenge which needs to be addressed.
• Most villages have a primary school nearby. More and more students are being enrolled every year in primary schools and the number of dropouts is declining dramatically. Recent studies, however, show that the quality of education needs to be improved, with less than half the students being able to read, write and understand mathematics at levels appropriate for their age.
• There is a large urban population with poor social sector systems.
• Poor social indicators exist, particularly in the tribal areas.
UNICEF in Action
Families in Gujarat, from remote villages to crowded cities, are fast acquiring the necessary knowledge to care for themselves and their children. UNICEF is helping the State Government to draw up strategies to fight childhood undernutrition and morbidity, which includes initiatives about the importance of breastfeeding within the first hour of a baby’s life and regularly weighing the child to monitor growth.
Pregnant and nursing mothers and young women are being equipped with information on how to improve their health and nutrition. In collaboration with the State Government, communities are being trained to monitor the quality of drinking water and disseminating knowledge about safe storage of water and hygiene behaviour. As enshrined in the Right to Education Act, UNICEF is also working to ensure quality education for all children 6 to14 years of age in the state.
UNICEF initiatives include:
• Providing techno-managerial assistance to ensure all children are fully immunized against vaccine preventable diseases.
• Supporting the State Government in effective implementation of the Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses(IMNCI) strategy to ensure management of common illnesses at home or timely referral to the nearest health facility.
• Building the capacity of frontline workers in the delivery of quality Health and Nutrition services during Village Health and Nutrition Days and counselling families on appropriate child caring and feeding practices.
• Supporting programmes to promote use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and zinc tablets to tackle diarrhoea, which continues to kill a large number of children.
• Improving infant and maternal death notification and verbal autopsy, and using the local data for decision making.
• Partnering with civil society organizations to disseminate key messages on appropriate child feeding and caring practices, hygiene behaviour, safe drinking water and sanitation.
• Promoting appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices (IYCP), including exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and introduction of complementary feeding from the seventh month of life.
• Encouraging regular growth monitoring of all children between 0 to 6 months of age.
• Reducing micronutrient deficiencies by promoting use of iodized salt, consumption of iron folic acid tablets by all adolescent girls and vitamin A for all children up to five years.
• Working closely with the State Government for effective implementation of the recently launched Integrated Child Protection Scheme, including the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000, by building the capacity of all stakeholders, including police.
• Establishing partnerships with civil society organizations in six cotton-producing districts – Kutch, Vadodara, Banaskantha, Patan, Rajkot and Bhavnagar – to mobilize the community around protection of child rights, with focus on eliminating child labour.
• Helping the State Government to develop models to provide early childhood education for children between 3 and 6 years and quality elementary education through activity-based learning for all children between 6 and14 years.
Children and AIDS
• Addressing HIV risk among adolescents and young people, protecting rights of children affected by HIV, improving access and quality of Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services and ensuring children living with HIV have access to quality care and treatment including early infant diagnosis.
UNICEF State Office for Gujarat
Plot No. 70, Sector 19
Gandhinagar 382 019
Tel: 91 079 2322-5366, 2322-7034
Fax: 079 2322-5364