Children in Odisha

The west, north, south is largely tribal, hilly and forested, while the east has fertile coastal plains with 6 major rivers. The state is disaster prone – cyclones, floods, drought.

ECCE center has a balance of age-appropriate structured, guided activities and free play for children.

The challenge

Odisha is the 11th largest state in India with approximately 42 million people, most of them live in rural areas and about 17 per cent live in urban regions. It has the third largest tribal population in the country. As per Census 2011, 40 per cent of the population in Odisha are Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. The state is home to 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups. In 2016-17, the growth rate of the State as per the Odisha Economic Survey was pegged at 10.4 per cent. However, despite the economic growth, 32.6 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

The state is disaster prone – cyclones, floods, drought.  As many as 14 out of 30 districts are vulnerable to floods and cyclone in the coastal region and 11 districts in the western part of the state are prone to droughts.

Odisha has the highest newborn mortality rate in the country at 32 per 1000 live births (Sample Registration System 2016) with steep urban-rural disparities. Gender inequity, especially in fewer admissions of female new-borns to the special newborn care units is also a concern. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4, Odisha has the highest stillbirth rate of 13 per 1000 live births in India. The maternal mortality ratio is 180 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Around 800,000 children remain partially immunized or unimmunized in mostly 14 tribal dominated districts.

Food insecurity remains a sensitive risk, especially among the most disadvantaged tribal groups, with tribal children bearing a higher burden of stunting and severe wasting. The poor nutritional status of women and adolescent girls remains a significant contributor to child stunting. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4, an estimated 52 per cent of adolescent girls aged 15-18 years are chronically undernourished. Around 51 per cent of women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.        

Children’s vulnerability among most marginalized groups deepens with high levels of poverty, rigid social norms and cultural practices, displacement of families, frequent natural calamities and the presence of Left-wing extremism. Children in child care institutions, children in need of care and protection and those in conflict with law require special attention. Child labour and violence against children continue to persist.  

Odisha has reached high gross/net enrolment rates in Grades 1-5 and reduced the number of out-of-school children among the 6-14 age group. Its challenge remains the quality of learning and the sharp drop-off in enrolment at the middle and secondary school levels. Strengthening the teaching process and the quality of transaction between teachers and students is an important requirement, while the state continues to emphasize regular attendance and getting all out-of-school children back to school. 20 per cent of children aged 3-6 years do not access any type of pre-schools.

The overall sanitation coverage had increased yet people still defecate in the open in rural areas. Bringing about behaviour change towards promoting toilet usage and maintenance remains a challenge for the state. While most households have access to an improved drinking water source, only 19 per cent of households have access to drinking water facilities within the premises.


Advancing children’s rights and well-being

UNICEF contributes to early childhood development and empowerment of adolescents, recognizing the importance of investing in the early years and the second chance of opportunities that adolescent ages open for children.

UNICEF partners with the state government, academia, NGOs, Community Based organization (CBOs), faith groups, youth groups, elected representatives and private sector to improve the quality of delivery of health services, scaling up of essential nutrition interventions, reduction of practice of open defecation and improve access to safe drinking water and water quality, improve quality of education and to support child protection systems and mechanisms that help implement child protection legislation in the state. This is executed through strategies like capacity development, system strengthening, community mobilization, evidence-based policy advocacy and partnerships.      

UNICEF provides technical support to increase the coverage of facility based newborn care units and facilitates setting up more special newborn care units, including kangaroo mother care units and to strengthen routine immunization in the state, focusing on children in hard-to-reach and tribal areas.           

Children appear happy and busy. Children approach the teachers/caregivers freely at any time. Ganjam District, Odhisa.
Children appear happy and busy. Children approach the teachers/caregivers freely at any time. Ganjam District, Odhisa.

It further supports government led micronutrient supplementation programmes, including the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme.  In partnership with self-help groups, UNICEF has introduced a complementary feeding programme to address nutrition of women and adolescent girls.  It supports the state’s efforts in introduction of community-based management of acute malnutrition in children under age five, through nutrition rehabilitation centres and other health institutions. 

UNICEF supports the state in its efforts to reduce the practice of open defecation and sustainability of toilet usage through behaviour change communication and promoting community approaches to sanitation.  It further works towards access to safe drinking water and water quality to promote water and sanitation in schools, focusing on hand washing practices, operation and maintenance of the water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and ensuring that health facilities have functional water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. 

UNICEF supports the state through teacher education reforms to strengthen learning outcomes. It places emphasis on inclusive education, gender sensitive education and mechanisms to identify and monitor all out-of-school or children at risk of dropping out. It supports early childhood education, with strong emphasis on mother tongue based Early Childhood Care and Education. 

UNICEF supports establishment of child protection structures and mechanisms in the state, advocacy for implementation of child related laws and build capacities. It partners with judiciary, especially the Juvenile Justice Committee in the Orissa High Court, civil society organizations, networks and public advocacy platforms to address issues that violate rights of children such as child labour, child marriage.

UNICEF also works closely with the State Disaster Management Authority and inter-agency group of civil society organizations to support the state’s efforts on disaster risk reduction and disaster management and response.