11 January 2023

Annual Report India 2021

Every child is born with the right to be cared for, nurtured and protected; to grow up healthy and strong; to be educated and enabled to reach their full potential and to contribute to society, at large. For 75 years globally and 73 years in India, UNICEF and its partners have worked to help children realize their rights, whoever she is, wherever he lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children and young people in multiple ways, at an unprecedented scale, and has been the worst calamity in recent history to affect children globally and in India. Recurrent waves of the pandemic overwhelmed the underprepared health systems. Interruptions and constant disruptions to supply chains and healthcare threatened to undermine recent gain in child health, nutrition, and development. Lifesaving routine immunization was disturbed. Classrooms sat empty, with children facing severe learning disruptions. The pandemic tested, but it could not diminish our optimism. The crisis revealed the strength and resilience of affected people, communities, adolescents, and youth. UNICEF staunchly supported the national and state governments in the pandemic response. Our partnerships with the government, private sector partners, donors, civil society, children and young people kept us active through the response period, and beyond. As communities struggled to contain the pandemic, UNICEF supported the government and people of India in providing accurate, and appropriate lifesaving information, delivering essential supplies including personal protective equipment, oxygen plants, cold chain equipment, syringes and diagnostic testing devices, providing vital support to keep health services functioning, including immunization, protective measures for children and treatment for malnutrition. As the Government of India responded to a rising number of cases of COVID-19, UNICEF supported the effort by providing oxygen concentrators, installing oxygen plants in selected hospitals to save lives on the frontline and to support communities, and health  workers in combating the pandemic. While schools and early childhood development centres remained closed for most of the year, UNICEF supported the most marginalized children, including children with disabilities, to have continued access to learning. UNICEF also engaged with the government for the safe reopening of schools, notably through improved WASH services to support infection prevention and control in the immediate learning environment of children. The pandemic threatened to roll back the hard-won progress and gender gains of years, straining social services, protection, and justice systems, increasing gender-based risks, and deepening inequalities. UNICEF supported government systems to identify vulnerable children, work toward strengthening families, prevent separation, promote family-based care for children, and provide psychosocial support to children and their families/caregivers. WASH became a critical component of the pandemic response effort for which UNICEF reached millions through the media with hand-hygiene messages while supporting the continuity of water and sanitation services. Staff were trained and engaged in infection prevention and control measures, such as hand hygiene promotion and COVID-appropriate behaviours in schools, health facilities, and in communities, particularly in urban slums identified as COVID-19 hotspots. The Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) response to the pandemic intensified through India’s devastating second wave; extraordinary support was extended to the government to bolster the #LargestVaccineDrive, cutting edge communication in addressing risk perceptions, promoting healthy practices and vaccines uptake, while countering misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.  Under the most challenging circumstances imaginable, we have witnessed extraordinary resilience and courage, innovation, and dedication of frontline workers. We saw how quickly they rose to the occasion, as individuals and as societies, when the situation demanded.  Responding to the acute emergency in 2021 has also reinforced our belief that progress is possible through sustained efforts and strategic partnerships. And, with a huge mandate to deliver, we continue to learn from the successes and failures of the pandemic to find opportunities in crisis. Learning and acting upon the lessons in these past two years can go a long way in establishing that child-critical services are more inclusive, resilient to and prepared for disasters, and an evolving pandemic. We continue to advocate and accelerate progress to meeting crucial needs of children, young people, and families – from health and nutrition to water and sanitation, to education, child protection, social protection, access to skills and opportunities for young people.  Seventy-five years on, this is a time to build on UNICEF’s history and achievements with renewed commitment, innovation, and action. It is possible only through our collective efforts, as UNICEF, the public and private sectors, our invaluable network of partners working for child rights, and children and young people themselves, that we will turn the tide for a better, safer, healthier, and greener future for every child. Together, we can accomplish this. Cynthia McCaffrey Representative, UNICEF India