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4 Things in India We Need to Address About a Growing Child

Updated on June 1, 2016

The 4 Biggest Hurdles to Achieve Children Health

Sanitation

Diarrhea is still the second most common reason for death among Indian children, after respiratory-tract infections, according to the official website of UNICEF. Moreover, 122 million households in the country are without toilets and at 3 million toilets a year, the annual rate of increase has only been 1 per cent in the past decade. Poor hygiene practices and lack of clean drinking water has been claiming lives even in 2016. As many as 1000 children under the age of five die every day due to diarrhea, reported an article in Governance Now on April 22, 2016. Sanitation is among the primary factors in children health that needs to be addressed, so as to ensure the survival of children and their healthy growth. However, as per World Bank estimates, India is at least 30 years behind on achieving its sanitation goals. While the Prime Minister's Swacch Bharat Abhiyan or the Clean India Mission is targeting these issues head on and aims to make India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by October 2, 2019, the support of non-governmental associations will be instrumental in achieving this ambitious goal.

Vaccination

Given the less than desirable state of sanitation, immunization against various viruses take on special significance in ensuring the health and development of children in India. However, the role of child care hospitals is crucial in this regard, in order to monitor and update the vaccination doses. The best child hospital in India for instance, will have incorporated the rotavirus vaccine against diarrhea. However, as of now, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are the only two states to have introduced vaccine, reported The Times of India on April 8, 2016. While the level of achievement with regard to polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus has been commendable, there are many other frontiers to be covered when it comes to immunization. Up to 60% of severe diseases occur due to the Haemophilus influenzae type B which occurs in children below 12 months, as per the data provided by Rainbow Hospitals. Therefore, especially in a country like India where the prevalence of many critical diseases are high, it is essential to have and implement a health policy that supports timely vaccinations.

Nutrition

The Union Cabinet approved a MoC between the women and child development ministry and the Melinda Gates Foundation for real time monitoring of Child Development Services and other technological aids, reported The Times of India on May 5, 2016. This cooperative move comes soon after the 2015 release of the Rapid Survey on Children data, collected by the ministry in unison with UNICEF over the years 2013-14. The data revealed that 29.4 per cent of children (aged less than three years) were underweight, while 15 per cent were wasted and 38.7 per cent were stunted, as per the article published by The Indian Express on September 17, 2015. The levels of stunting are higher in India than even Africa and there is no cure for this form of severe chronic malnutrition (SCM). Therefore, even though children hospitals will not be able to treat malnutrition, which can only be addressed by proper nutrition, better child-feeding practices and reduction of exposure to illnesses, the opinion of a child specialist could be instrumental in diagnosing and treating this form of underdevelopment.

Enforcement of Child Labor Laws and Addressing Special Needs

The Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act was enacted in 1986 was amended in keeping with the International Labour Organisation provisions to include children up to the age of 18, although it has a caveat that allows children to work in family businesses after school hours. However, improper implementation of the law results in several children being employed as household helps and at eateries, deprived of their right to education. Moreover, the ban has been so ineffectual as to increase the number of children in the workforce and reduce the wages of child laborers, stated a paper published by National Bureau of Economic Research published in October 2013. The number of rehabilitation centers need to be increased and more child laborers need to be identified and rehabilitated. This is especially true of special needs children, who often cast away by their families, find manual labor as a source of survival. Child development centers that help such children overcome their disabilities and parallel implementation of inclusive education is crucial to relieving the plight of such children.

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