Left-right) Susma Devi Poddar kneels as her husband, Chandra Dev Poddar, holds a hand to his head beside the ruins of their home in Bhaddi Village, Bihar State.
India is the world’s seventh-largest country by geographical area and the second-most populous country in the world with an estimated population of 1.2 billion. The country is bordered by Pakistan to the west; the People's Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.
India is a republic consisting of 28 states and seven union territories with a parliamentary system of democracy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh currently heads a national-level coalition government under the banner of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
India is the world’s largest democracy; it has the world’s twelfth largest economy at market exchange rates and the fourth largest in purchasing power1.
Hindus constitute 80.5 per cent of the country’s total population, while Muslims constitute 13.4 per cent. The remaining 6.1 per cent are Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and others.
Achievements and Challenges
Over the last few years India has seen impressive economic growth as well as progress in terms of human development. The economy grew at a rate of 9.4 per cent in 2006-2007 as compared to 5.8 per cent in 2001-2002 . The population below the poverty line fell from 36 per cent in 1993-94 to 27.5 per cent in 2004-2005 .
However, India still has much progress to make if it is going to reach the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Government of India (GOI) recognises that even these growth rates are not fast or equitable enough to reach disadvantaged populations.
Thirty-four per cent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day and the percentage of underweight children under the age of three has remained stagnant for the past seven years, standing at 45.9 per cent in 2005-06.
Malnutrition is directly or indirectly associated with more than half of all young child mortality. About 78 per cent of total under-five deaths occur before age one. The Infant Mortality Rate for India was estimated to be 58/1,000 live births in 2006 and the Maternal Mortality Rate currently stands at 301/100,000 live births.
The percentage of working children stood at 11.8 in 2005-2006 . Two out of every three children in the country have been physically abused and 53.2 per cent of children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse .
Sanitation coverage in rural India increased from 21 per cent in 2001 to 48 per cent in 2007 . In urban areas 83 per cent of households currently have access to adequate sanitation . The Government of India plans to make the country free from open defecation by the end of the Eleventh Plan in 2012.
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India is estimated to be between two to three million, with an approximate national adult HIV prevalence rate of 0.36 per cent . An estimated 70,000 children in India below the age of 15 are infected with HIV .
In education, the Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) in primary education have increased from 84.6 per cent in 1992-1993 to 107 per cent in 2004-2005 , with much of the growth attributable to increased enrolment of girls. The estimated non-attendance rate for children in the age-group 5-14 years is 18 per cent , and the drop-out rate is 29 per cent .
India is among the world’s most disaster-prone countries. Almost 80% of India’s geographical area is considered at risk to one or more types of natural disasters: floods, coastal cyclones, droughts, earthquakes and landslides. Tens of millions people are affected annually in India, most of them from the poorest strata of the population, a high proportion of whom are children.
In only the last two decades, several major natural disasters have occurred in India: The Latur Earthquake in 1993; the Orissa super-cyclone in October 1999, the Bhuj earthquake in January 2001, the Tsunami in December 2004, the earthquake in Jammu & Kashmir in October 2005, major flooding in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, West Bengal and other states in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, the eastern Indian State of West Bengal was hit by cyclone Aila which affected 6.8 million people and resulted in a loss of 138 human lives.
UNICEF State Offices:
• UNICEF India Country Office headquarters, New Delhi
• Jaipur, Rajasthan
• Ahmedabad, Gujarat
• Raipur, Chattisgarh
• Ranchi, Jharkhand
• Patna, Bihar
• Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
• Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
• Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
• Hyderabad, office for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
• Chennai, office for Tamil Nadu and Kerala
• Kolkata, West Bengal
• Guwahati, Assam
• Mumbai, Maharashtra
UNICEF in Action in India
UNICEF is working jointly with Government of India on a five-year Country Programme to help India achieve its national development goals.
The overall goal of the 2008-2012 Country Programme is to advance the fulfilment of the rights of all women and children to survive, develop, participate and be protected by reducing social inequalities based on gender, caste, ethnicity or region.
UNICEF plays a critical roll to ensure the effective implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Its key focus areas in health are (1) Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (IMNCI); (2) to promote the acceleration of routine immunisation; (3) ORS / zinc therapy for diarrhoea; (4) to provide quality care for women and newborns and safe deliveries - Special Care Newborn Units (SCNU); (5) Maternal and Perinatal Death Inquiry and Response (MAPEDIR); and (6) monitoring district level availability, access, utilisation, quality and effective coverage of services.
UNICEF supports the Government in its objectives to reduce and prevent malnutrition, and to improve the development of children under three years old, especially those in marginalised groups. It focuses on (1) the nutritional status of under 3 year olds; (2) improvements in quality and efficiency of existing government programmes; and (3) the strengthening of nutrition intervention policies supportive of families and communities.
Water and Environmental Sanitation
UNICEF supports the national and state governments in developing and implementing a range of replicable models for sanitation, hygiene and water supply: Elements from these have influenced government policy and programmes. UNICEF action on Child’s Environment focuses on (1) improving the child’s household hygiene and sanitation environment; (2) improving the child’s school environment; and (3) improving community management and sustainability of water and sanitation interventions.
UNICEF India’s approach to child protection aims to build a protective environment in which children’s rights are fully realised and they can live and develop to their fullest potential. UNICEF action on Child Protection in India includes (1) promoting Alternative Learning Centres in areas where child labour is common; (2) strengthening knowledge base on trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children; (3) supporting advocacy and public awareness campaigns to change mindsets and promote community action against child labour and trafficking.
UNICEF supports the Government of India to meet MDGs 2 and 3 and national goals as outlined in the 11th five year plan. UNICEF works to (1) strengthen policy and implementation capacity of state and national players to reduce disparities and support disadvantaged groups; (2) to support accountable and responsive local government systems to achieve MDGs / local development goals, especially for disadvantaged groups, women and girls; (3) to ensure 11th five year plan targets related to the MDGs are on track in at least one district in each of the seven priority states and (4) to enhance the abilities of civil society groups and government systems to respond to disasters.
As a part of the joint UN response and within the context of National Aids Control Plan III, UNICEF works with the Government of India and other partners in four key areas: (1) Primary prevention of HIV/AIDS in adolescents, young people and women of childbearing age; (2) quality assurance and monitoring; and (3) advocacy.
UNICEF in Emergencies
UNICEF in India is the UN agency with most effective field office network in the country, high credibility with the government, and capacity to make a significant contribution in emergencies by complementing the Government’s efforts. UNICEF offices in the states often assume a coordination role in emergency response. In most cases, UNICEF’s response consisted of urgently needed supplies with the ultimate purpose of preventing disease epidemics and saving lives, but UNICEF at the same time put an ever increasing emphasis on advocacy efforts with the government partners and all other stakeholders to ensure appropriate response to the needy affected population and fast resumption of essential social services.
In 2008, UNICEF was a major and leading humanitarian player in the country. UNICEF provided support to the state governments to assist the victims of communal violence and displacement, programme communication support to the Government in tackling major floods, earthquakes, flu threats and disease outbreaks, and carried out the final phase of the recovery response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004). In 2009, UNICEF helped the victims of cyclone Aila that hit the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and caused massive devastation and disrupted the normal life of millions of people, as well as most vulnerable children and populations affected by floods in several northern and eastern states.
- UNICEF began its operations in India in 1949.
- The India Country Office currently has 425 staff members, including 382 Indian nationals and 43 international staff members.
- UNICEF works with the Government of India, UN agencies, National and international NGOs such as IRCS, Cry, and Save the Children.
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1 World BankReport 2008 ( http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP.pdf )
2 Census of India 2001
3 Press note by Press Information Bureau on 31 May 2007 (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 1)
4 http://mospi.nic.in/t1_income_at_constant.htm (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 1)
5 Government of India Poverty Estimates for 2004-2005. Press Information Bureau. March 2007. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 1)
6 Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth. Planning Commission, Government of India. June 2006. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 1)
7 http://mdgs.un.org/unsd//mdg/Data.aspx?cr=356#f20 (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 2)
8 Fact Sheets: National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS3). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 2006. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 2)
9 State of the World’s Children (SOWC). UNICEF. 2007.
10 Sample Registration System Bulletin. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner. October 2007. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 5)
11 State of the World’s Children (SOWC). UNICEF. 2007.
12 National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS3). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 2006. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 8)
13 Study on Child Abuse. Ministry of Women and Child Development. 2007. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 8)
14 Coverage as per the date reported in TSC online monitoring software of GOI. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 8)
15 Fact Sheets: National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS3). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 2006. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 8)
16 Policy Framework for Children and AIDS. Government of India. 2007. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 7)
17 National HIV Sero-Surveillance. National AIDS Control Organisation. 2006. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 7)
18 Selected Educational Statistics. MHRD. 2004-5 (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 3)
19 Status of Education and Vocational Training In India. National Sample Survey Organisation. 2004-5. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 3)
20 Selected Educational Statistics. MHRD. 2004-5. (As quoted in UNICEF India Country Programme Action Plan 2008-2012, p. 3)