Though Gujarat has witnessed a significant decline in poverty and ranks third in economic growth, development has been inequitable. Tribal, coastal, desert and hilly areas still have high poverty levels above the State's average.
While universal primary education, gender equity in primary education and access to safe drinking water have increased, the neonatal mortality and maternal mortality rates have been slow to improve. The high prevalence of malnutrition, poor coverage of full immunization, the declining sex ratio and child marriage continue to pose a challenge to improving human development outcomes for every child in Gujarat.
Gujarat has significantly reduced the under-five mortality rate, but the neonatal mortality rate is still high, contributing to 63 per cent under-five deaths. More girls than boys die.
Access to special newborn care units is improving but the quality of maternal and neonatal care is of major concern. Full immunization coverage remains low in remote communities, especially tribal, coastal and salt pan areas, as well as in urban slums and among migrant children.
Though the level of stunting in children under five has reduced in Gujarat, about 39 per cent of children are still chronically undernourished or stunted. Wasting or acute malnutrition increased between 2006 and 2016, posing a risk to child survival. Only 50 per cent of children are breastfed within the first hour of birth.
Gujarat achieved 100 per cent open defecation free (ODF) Status between 2018-19 but sustaining this status in various communities remains a challenge. for example, some 83.2 per cent of schools have functional toilets continued maintenance is still a challenge. Although the State has made good progress in water provision, even in remote communities, high microbial and chemical contamination of water sources, especially in rural areas, constitutes a huge challenge.
Gujarat has made impressive progress in education especially around increased access, infrastructure and enrollment rates. Programmes like Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya and Eklavya tribal schools have ensured education reaches marginalized children, especially girls. The quality of elementary education remains a challenge.
Children dropping out of school is an issue in tribal, coastal, salt pan and hilly areas while in some communities child marriage also contributes to children, especially girls, dropping out. Ensuring quality early childhood education for every child is a challenge due to the low qualification of Integrated Child Development Services workers, private preschool teachers, inadequate monitoring system and unavailability of data.
Child marriage is still highly prevalent in Gujarat, girls in the poorest families four times more likely to marry early those in the highest wealth quintile. An estimated 24.9 per cent of women aged 20-24 years were married before the legal age of 18 years, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS - 4).
Other issues facing children include child labour, violence against children and lack of access to services for children in urban slums.