Children in Bihar

Almost every second person in Bihar is a child. Every child, girl and boy, has the right to survive, thrive and achieve full potential.

Children during an activity at an Anaganwadi center in Cherki, Bihar.
UNICEF/UN0280920/Vishwanathan

The challenge

Bihar is the third most populous state in India and it is home to 47 million children, almost half (46 per cent) of the State's 104 million people and the highest proportion of children of any state in India.  Bihar's children make up 11 per cent of India’s population.  Almost 88.7 per cent of people in Bihar live in villages and 33.74 per cent live below poverty line. 

Children in Bihar face many deprivations owing to wide-spread poverty, deep-rooted socio-cultural and gender inequalities, caste divisions, poor infrastructure, lack of basic services and recurring natural disasters. The State ranks lowest in India in terms of per capita income with inclusive development a key challenge.

A newborn dies every eight minutes and an infant dies every five minutes in Bihar.

Every year some 2.8 million children are born in Bihar but almost 75,000 of these newborns die within the first month. Despite this child mortality has reduced in Bihar due to the significant improvements in immunization coverage (11 per cent in 1998 to 69 per cent in 2018) and institutional delivery (19.9 per cent in 2005-2006 - National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 3 to 63.8 per cent in 2015-2016 - NFHS 4).

Malnutrition remains a key challenge, every second child (48.3 per cent) under the age of five are stunted (low height for age) and one fifth (20.8 per cent) are wasted (NFHS-4). Only 34.9 per cent of children are breastfed within the first hour of birth and 7.3 per cent of children aged 6-23 months are introduced to complementary foods (NFHS -4). One in two girls aged 15-19 is undernourished and one-third of women of reproductive age are undernourished.

Close to three million girls are married before the legal age of 18 years and 370,000 girls are pregnant during adolescence (NFHS-4). To address this, focusing on girls' empowerment, the State has adopted a comprehensive Women’s Empowerment Policy and led a state-wide campaign to eliminate child marriage and dowry.

Around one million children aged 6-14 years are child workers and are highly vulnerable to early marriage, trafficking, abuse and exploitation.

Despite the challenges, there has been progress in development in Bihar in recent years. Most girls and boys are enrolled in primary school, although regular attendance, quality education and transition to secondary schools remain a concern.

Improved governance has led to better health care services, greater emphasis on education, better management of social sector programmes and a reduction in crime and corruption.

In 2015, the Sate Gvernment committed to improving development indicators through a mission mode by 2020. The state adopted seven policy resolutions titled ‘Viksit Bihar ke liye Saat Nishchay’ for inclusive development and good governance agenda. The resolutions included ensuring a toilet for every household and safe piped drinking water for all rural households by 2020.

Advancing children’s rights and well-being

We need to achieve results for children in Bihar to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

UNICEF works with the Government of Bihar and key stakeholders across the State to promote and protect the rights of children, especially those from the most marginalized communities. It also contributes to the State’s efforts towards strengthening policy, planning, systems and capacities to deliver quality services to women and children, focussing on the most vulnerable. 

Children react during an activity at an Anaganwadi center in Cherki, Bihar.
UNICEF/UN0280921/Vishwanathan
Children react during an activity at an Anaganwadi center in Cherki, Bihar.

Across Bihar UNICEF works using a lifecycle approach, and focusses on the holistic development of a child, from birth to adolescence. Key sectors include health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, child protection and social policy. 

We undertake evidence-based advocacy and demonstrate effective models on the ground to facilitate better results for children, adolescents and mothers. UNICEF also works towards creating an enabling environment for the realization of children’s rights through gaining support from different stakeholders and influencers, to bring children’s issues at the heart social and political agendas while also addressing harmful social norms and promoting positive behaviours and models.