Children in Karnataka

Significant population of continue to lag on several human development indicators and reports high incidence of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking.

A Young happy mother looking at her son who has improved with handsome weightgain after getting treated for SAM in Chikkabalapur Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) Karnataka.

The challenge

Karnataka has three main geographical zones - a coastal region, a hilly region along the Western Ghats and a region covering plains of the Deccan plateau. Due to an impressive economic growth rate over the past two decades Karnataka has invested in the areas of social development, including health and education.

However, the northern region of the state which has a significant population of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities, continue to lag on several human development indicators and reports high incidence of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. The rapid urbanization of Bengaluru, Mysuru and other smaller cities attracts a large influx of adults and children from the northern region of the state and other states.

Approximately 20.9 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. The state is working towards a Nutrition policy as part of its Vision 2025 goals in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and World Health Assembly targets and is widening the nutrition supplementation net through near universal targeted schemes.

Karnataka is one of the few states that implements decentralization processes as per the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution, empowering local institutions and communities to participate in development activities.

Few of the key indicators of the state are neonatal mortality rate is 19 per 1000 live births and high maternal mortality ratio of 133 per 100,000 live births (Source: Sample Registration System 2015). As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4, stunting of under-five children is 36 per cent and 26 per cent of children under the age of five years are wasted and 10.5 per cent of the children are severely wasted. The rural sanitation coverage in the state stands at 86 per cent (Swachh Bharat Mission MIS). The Annual Status of Education Report 2016 findings show that after 10 years, reading and arithmetic scores have improved in public-funded schools in the early grades. As per NFHS-4, 23.2 per cent women aged 20-24 years are married before the age of 18 years.

Advancing children’s rights and well-being

An impressive economic growth rate over the past two decades has made Karnataka invest in the areas of social development, including health and education.

UNICEF is the lead development partner in the implementation of the government’s flagship programme on health, the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) strategy in four districts. Besides, support is provided to the state to reduce stunting and undernutrition among infants and young children by promoting appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, and to treat and manage severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF focuses on increasing hygiene awareness, supporting the state in its efforts to eliminate open defecation and ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water.

UNICEF’s work on education seeks to provide a learning environment where girls and boys have equal access to and take advantage of quality education services. UNICEF also works to ensure strict enforcement of laws to protect children from hazardous labour, child marriage, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

UNICEF supports the government in addressing equity gaps and improving the quality of care provided in health care facilities. UNICEF focuses on strengthening the state’s capacity to access, generate and use data for evidence-based planning, budgeting and monitoring of health programmes.

UNICEF engages with the private sector to expand coverage of health care services, especially in urban slums and address issues like low rates of early initiation of breastfeeding, high caesarean section rates and overuse of antibiotics.

The focus of the immunization programme is on supporting the state’s efforts to eliminate measles, control rubella, introduce newer vaccines and address coverage issues in urban slums and pockets of low immunization coverage in the state. UNICEF also prioritizes improving the quality of cold chain and supply chain systems to ensure the quality of vaccines.

The state has a relatively good governance mechanism and the potential to demonstrate innovations in the field of nutrition. Hence, UNICEF focuses on ensuring that the most vulnerable populations can access nutrition services provided by the government.

UNICEF focuses on building the capacities of state and district officials for effective implementation of the sanitation programme, including timely delivery of services. In alliance with the public and private sector and civil society organizations, UNICEF is helping to create a large pool of swachh grahis (sanitation volunteers) in districts, blocks and gram panchayats to campaign for the creation of sustainable open defecation free communities.

UNICEF advocates with the state for improved policies and strategies for developing water safety and security plans in coordination with other departments. Support is given to the state in developing the capacities of officials for effective service delivery, promoting child-friendly technologies and for sustainable operation and management of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, Anganwadis and healthcare facilities. A key component of UNICEF’s work is incorporating social and behaviour change communication approaches in all government programmes that address water, sanitation and hygiene services for improved participation of communities and local institutions.

UNICEF supports building the capacities of government departments for effective coordination, implementation and monitoring of the education programme. A key part of the advocacy efforts is on promoting model alternative elementary education systems that are flexible and inclusive in reaching out to out-of-school children and adolescents, especially those from marginalized communities.

UNICEF also uses technology-based learning and instruction methods to demonstrate quality models that help improve learning outcomes for children from marginalized communities, those with disabilities and in urban slums.

Rahil (4Yrs) is the happy one and getting alot of playtime while he is treated for SAM in Chikkabalapur Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) Karnataka.
Rahil (4Yrs) is the happy one and getting alot of playtime while he is treated for SAM in Chikkabalapur Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) Karnataka.

UNICEF gives priority to strengthening implementation of social protection schemes that enable parents to send their children to school. UNICEF supports the state and districts by strengthening child protection units through the Child Protection Services, including setting up monitoring systems to protect children.

Priority is given to strengthening systems that prevent institutionalization of children and advocacy is focused on linkages with social protection schemes as a strategy to strengthen families and reduce the demand for residential care. UNICEF works with the state to strengthen enforcement of laws to prevent child marriage and focuses on placing violence against children and child marriage in the public agenda to generate dialogue and make the issue increasingly visible and politically important.

The cross-cutting interventions of UNICEF’s programmes are built around two life cycle phases – early childhood development (0-6 years) and adolescent empowerment (10-19 years) – which cut across all the programme outcomes to address children’s and women’s rights.

The state is prone to natural disasters with three districts vulnerable to cyclones, affecting a sizable proportion of the state’s population. Statutory bodies like the State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority are not fully functional yet. UNICEF builds the capacities of states and select districts for timely delivery of health care services and sustainable management of climate-resilient safe water systems. UNICEF is working with drought-affected taluks in the state to develop an emergency preparedness plan for food and nutrition security. The focus is also on mainstreaming child protection policies into disaster risk reduction initiatives for school safety.