Children in Jharkhand

Jharkhand faces several challenges in terms of political instability, volatile socio-political environment and several systemic issues for achieving social, human and economic development goals.

Sapna Kumari (13, left) and Barkha Kumari (13, right) students of the Government Model School Pirra in Kanke block, Ranchi, Jharkhand.

The challenge

Jharkhand, carved out of the large state of Bihar in 2000, has a population of 32.9 million (Census 2011), living in about 120,000 dwellings, spread over 33,000 villages. About 38 per cent of the people in the state belonged to the disadvantaged communities of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. About 40 per cent of India’s mineral resources are in Jharkhand and it has a forest cover of 28 per cent. The state witnessed eight governments / chief ministers and three periods of President’s rule in the last 12 years from 2000.

The infant and under-five mortality in the state has shown a steady decline in the past few years. However, the rate of decline of newborn mortality is higher in districts with tribal communities. Gender discrimination is reflected in the care of newborn babies with fewer girls admitted to special newborn care units than boys. Though the maternal mortality rate has shown a decline, it is still above the national average and very high in Palamu and Santhal Pargana region.    

Almost every second child in Jharkhand is stunted (low height for age), and three out of ten children are wasted (low weight for height). In terms of numbers, approximately two million children below age five are stunted in the state, which is the highest proportion of stunting next only to Bihar in the country.    

Many hard to reach and inaccessible areas and non-availability of trained workforce, especially specialist doctors, is a major challenge for the state. Almost every third woman in the state is undernourished, and almost seven out of ten women in the reproductive age are anaemic. About 70 per cent of children aged 6-59 months suffer from anaemia.

As per Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)- MIS the state-wide coverage in rural sanitation coverage is now 100 per cent. With the changing pace, the foreseen challenge is to engage the community, generate demand and facilitate them to leap one step ahead on the sanitation ladder and sustain open defecation free (ODF) status. WASH in School/ Anganwadi (pre-school) is a key opportunity to encourage safe sanitation and hygiene practices among young children and through them to their families.

The state has made progress on access related goals, girls share proportionate enrolments at primary, upper primary as well as secondary levels. However, state battles many challenges. Low rates of retention and transition for both girls and boys continue to be major challenges. A substantial proportion of children attending government schools are first-generation learning and come from extremely poor communities. Many of these children also come from linguistically diverse backgrounds. To address their learning needs, schools must be responsive to the diversity of children.         

Advancing children’s rights and well-being

UNICEF works through the multi-stakeholder platform, collaborating with Government, development partners and civil society to jointly track progress, addressing barriers and bottlenecks to the achievement of SDGs.

UNICEF in Jharkhand works with the government, legislative committees, Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), civil society organizations (CSOs), the media, academic institutions and others to bring about change in key priority areas.

UNICEF harnesses partnerships to strengthen services for antenatal care, skilled birth attendance and essential newborn care, including promoting early initiation of breastfeeding. It assists the state in building the capacity of frontline workers and strengthens social and behaviour change communication initiatives to stimulate demand for health care services in partnership with NGOs, civil society organisations, tribal organisations, self-help groups, and Panchayati Raj institutions.

Support is given to building the capacities of programme managers to use data from the special newborn care unit online monitoring to improve quality of care in delivery rooms and newborn care units and follow up after the babies are discharged.

The programme focuses on providing immunisation as part of an integrated package of services for mothers and children delivered through village health and nutrition days (VHNDs). UNICEF supports the government in strengthening cold chain systems and expanding sub-district level cold chain points, especially in areas inaccessible due to terrain or civil strife.

Support is given to strengthening the state’s efforts to increase the outreach of essential nutrition interventions and to improve the quality of services being delivered by leveraging local partnerships and working with tribal communities.

UNICEF is supporting the state in rolling out in a phased manner the Mothers’ Absolute Affection (MAA) programme to improve breastfeeding practices. UNICEF is expanding its partnerships to include large-scale networks, academic bodies, development partners and other United Nations agencies to garner strong sustained government support for improving food security and feeding of young children.

UNICEF supports in capturing innovations and developing a community-led monitoring and implementation mechanism with children, women and youths as a face of change. Technical support in developing state guidelines, road maps and policy documents is the core of our work. 

UNICEF has been contributing to building capacities of FLWs on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). While efforts are being made to strengthen the infrastructure for MHM at schools and in community, social taboos are challenged by empowering children on life skills.

UNICEF in Jharkhand partners with government and civil society institutions to strengthen access to quality pre-primary and elementary education with a focus on learning outcomes. The program is geared towards ensuring the transition to secondary. For this, UNICEF works for strengthening systemic capacity for evidence-based planning and implementation of education programmes with a focus on most marginalised children. UNICEF works with the state to build and strengthen teacher education institutions to improve the quality of teaching and learning.    Jharkhand is home to 32 different tribal communities with 19 distinct languages.

UNICEF has promoted the development of state-specific curriculum and multi-lingual content in response to the state’s diversity. It promotes inter-sectoral convergence to ensure linkages between pre-school, elementary and secondary education.        

Sometimes Kushma Kumari(15, center) rides a cycle to the school along with her friends Priyanshi Kumari’s (13) (left) and Barkha Kumari (14)(right).
Sometimes Kushma Kumari(15, center) rides a cycle to the school along with her friends Priyanshi Kumari’s (13) (left) and Barkha Kumari (14)(right).

Child Cabinets are strengthened as forums to children’s participation in school governance, MHM as well as life skill education remain integral to UNICEF’ efforts for empowering adolescents. Efforts are also being made to ensure SMC engagement in monitoring enrolment, attendance, and retention. Social protection systems are also prioritised for both parents and children to reduce financial and social barriers in the way of access, retention and transition.

UNICEF advocates with the government for strengthening the child protection and allied workforce. The programme also works to strengthen public finance mechanisms for better implementation of core child protection legislation. Strengthening alternative care with a focus on family-based care programs is also the focus in the state through a partnership with Jharkhand State Child Protection Society and Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority.

UNICEF is also supporting the state to strengthen data management system to generate data and evidence to improve the functioning of child protection statutory bodies like the Juvenile Justice Board, Child Welfare Committees, Special Juvenile Police Units, District Child Protection Units and Child Care Institutions. 

Through social and behaviour change communication and system strengthening approaches, UNICEF engages with communities and various duty bearers for protecting adolescents from child marriage, child labour and violence. Through partnerships, especially with the media, UNICEF builds public opinion against child marriage. The programme works to sensitise the police force on child rights and helps to create ‘child-friendly’ police stations.