In India, 5,000 kids die every 24 hrs: UNICEFNovember 21, 2009
Tribune News Service New Delhi, November 20
Twenty years after the world leaders signed the Convention of Rights of the Child, India continues to lag behind on key commitments made to its children. The special edition of UNICEF’s State of the World Children (SOWC) report released here today to mark two decades of the historic convention signed on November 20 tracks the progress made over the years and reminds nations of the promises they are yet to keep.
If the report’s contents are anything to go by, India has a lot of catching up to do on child rights. While globally, annual number of deaths of children under five has fallen from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008 — a 28 per cent decline — mortality rates in India remain unacceptably high, with 5,000 children dying every day due to preventable causes. Of these, 1,650 succumb to pre-natal complications, reflecting the persisting risk in deliveries, 1,100 die due to respiratory infections; 690 are consumed by diarrhoea and 530 to other avoidable infections. The caste divide is also worrisome, with the number of children per 1,000 live births dying before five years of age being 96 for Scheduled Tribes; 88 for Scheduled Castes and 59 for the general category.
Whereas globally, 84 per cent of primary school age children are studying and the gender gap in primary school enrollment is narrowing, India is yet to post good results in the sector, with many of its children engaged in labour — a concern UNICEF country representative Karin Hulshof voiced today along with child marriages, poor girls’ education and malnutrition.
Though the report says the age of children getting married is rising in some countries, in India, the proportion of women marrying before reaching 18 years of age is 47 per cent. Likewise, while 1.6 billion people have gained access to drinking water between 1990 and 2006, in India, only 38 per cent of people have access to sanitation (the MDG target is 60 per cent by 2015).
The only good news for India is that fewer children (under five) are dying now as the national mortality rate has fallen from 117 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 72 in 2007; more children have access to improved drinking water, rising from 62 to 88 per cent between 1993 and 2006; attendance rates for girls between 6 and 10 have increased from 61 to 81 per cent over the same period.”
Hulshof today urged the government to implement ambitious laws like Prohibition of Child Labour and Child Marriage. Planning Commission member Syeeda Hamid also stressed the need to track development related issues more frequently, by reducing the distance of six years between National Family Health Surveys. She labelled malnutrition as the black mark on India’s development efforts.
The report further brackets South Asia with South Africa on child rights, quoting UNICEF’s executive director Ann Veneman as saying: “These areas have the great concentrations of absolute deprivations of child rights and demand particular attention.”