Over the last five years, India has seen impressive economic growth as well as progress in terms of human development. The economy has experienced growth rates as high as 9 per cent in 2006-07, while the population below the poverty line has been gradually been falling. Nevertheless, crushing poverty and malnutrition are harsh realities for millions of women and children. Many inequities are tied to gender and class.
Issues facing children in India
- Infant mortality remains as high as 63 deaths per 1,000 live births. Most infant deaths occur in the first month of life, with up to 47 per cent in the first week.
- Children in India continue to lose their lives to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, which remains the biggest killer. Tetanus in newborns also remains a problem.
- Around 46 per cent of all children under the age of three are too small for their age, 47 per cent are underweight and at least 16 per cent show signs of wasting. Many of these children are severely malnourished.
- Anaemia affects 74 per cent of children under the age of three, more than 90 per cent of adolescent girls and 50 per cent of women.
- Diarrhoea remains the second major cause of death among children, after respiratory-tract infections. Unhygienic practices and unsafe drinking water are some of its main causes.
- More than 122 million households in the country are without toilets. Even though toilets are built in about 3 million households every year, the annual rate of increase has been just 1 per cent in the past decade.
- India has an estimated 220,000 children infected by HIV. It is estimated that 55,000 to 60,000 children are born every year to mothers who are HIV-positive.
- 20 per cent of children aged 6 to14 are still not in school. Several problems persist; issues of 'social distance' arising out of caste, class and gender differences deny children equal opportunities.
- With an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world.
Activities and results for children
- As part of a collaborative campaign between UNICEF and the Indian Government, Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar appeared in a public service announcement urging children to lather up in support of Global Handwashing Day.
- About 8,000 'missing children' were vaccinated against polio in an effort that took UNICEF into bus stations, railway platforms, road intersections, and into the passenger carriages of trains.
- In Gujarat's Vadodara district, UNICEF, with the state government, brought anaemia-fighting iron supplements to 65,544 girls in 410 schools. After 18 months, anaemia prevalence had been reduced by 22 per cent.
- In conjunction with its partners, UNICEF launched the 'Red Ribbon Express', a specially designed train that will cover 9,000 km during its year-long journey to educate people on HIV/AIDS.
- In a groundbreaking initiative, the Jhabua district administration, with support from UNICEF and other partners, launched 22 mobile schools in tents, bringing formal education to the children of the largely tribal, migratory families in the district.
- In the state of Tamil Nadu, the central government's National Child Labour Project, with support from UNICEF, has helped more than 3,600 child labourers leave their jobs and be mainstreamed into regular schools.