India working well on child issues, but too slow: Unicef


New Delhi : Progress on child issues is slow even though India has accomplished a great deal in ensuring the rights of children almost two decades after it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Unicef India representative Karin Holshof said Friday.

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“All the pointers are in the right direction but progress (on child issues) is too slow here (in India). For India to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and achieve what is in the 11th five year plan (till 2012), progress needs to be quicker and faster with more outreach into villages,” Holshof told reporters here.

She was speaking at an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of CRC by the UN General Assembly. India ratified the convention in 1992.

“Fewer under-five children are dying as the mortality has fallen from 117 births per 100 in 1990 to 72 in 2007. More children have access to improved drinking water, rising from 62 percent in 1992-1993 to 88 percent in 2005-2006,” Holshof said.

She also said that school enrolments had gone up from 1992-93 to 2005-06. She informed: “Attendance rates for girls aged six to 10 have increased from 61 to 81 percent.”

India’s progress also reflects a global phenomenon of change towards realising the rights of children, Holshof said.

On the occasion, the special edition of the Unicef State of the World Children Report 2009 was launched by Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

It says that annual deaths of children under five years has fallen from 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008, representing a 28 percent decline in the under five mortality rate.

The report reflected more success of the convention, which has been ratified by 193 countries on other fronts as well.

Between 1990 and 2006, around 1.6 billion people worldwide gained access to improved water sources, the report said.

Regarding protecting children from prostitution and soldier recruitments, the report says important steps have been taken. Children are no longer the missing face of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, the report said.

However, Holshof stressed that many challenges remain.

Like in India, she cited that one million newborns die each year during the first month of life, another million die before they reach five years of age. Fifty-five million children are under weight.

“Every child needs to be registered at birth and to receive the certificate they need to access the services they are entitled to over a lifetime. Eliminating malnourishment needs to be our priority. Simple interventions like better sanitation and hand washing practices are crucial,” she said.

Hameed meanwhile stressed on mid-term assessment of the 11th Five Year plan.

“I feel strongly that child issues need to be in the forefront now. Our priority (as a nation) has to be flipped over. The farmer lobby has been pressing their demands in the national capital, children don’t have any such lobby…We need to look at what is going wrong at the ground level. It (progress) is very slow and life is too short. These figures hit us hard and we are not satisfied,” she said.