Child Health

  • Awareness against filth is necessary (Editorial)

    It is great concern that at around 15 lakh children including 2.6 crore people die every year in the world. Out of it 18 lakh people die of diarrhea including 90 per cent children of under 5 years of age. According to United Nations Organisation's report all the countries including India are observing cleanliness year, but in the slum areas of cities and villages of India less attention is paid. Though much is spent on spreading awareness and in advertisement but its better result is not seems. It can be said that there is not difference was seen with this action and advertisement.

  • Child mortality: India behind even Bangla

    With two million children under the age of five dying every year, India has a dismal record in child mortality. Now, a new study conducted by Save the Children, which compares child mortality in a country to its national income per person, shows that India lags behind poorer neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal when it comes to cutting child deaths. This, even despite its impressive rate of economic growth as compared to the other South Asian nations.

  • 2.5 cr more children to be covered

    Finance minister P. Chidambaram today gave a brief account of the progress made under the flagship programmes such as Bharat Nirman, which were aimed at boosting development in the rural areas. In his Budget speech, Chidambaram proposed to provide Rs 31,280 crore for Bharat Nirman as against Rs 24,603 crore in 2007-08. The minister said Bharat Nirman had made impressive progress in 2007-08. "At the current pace, on each day of the year, 290 habitations are provided with drinking water and 17 habitations are connected through an all weather road. On each day of the year 52 villages are provided with telephones and 42 villages are electrified. On each day of the year 4,113 rural houses are completed,' he said. The Budget proposed Rs 8,000 crore for the Mid-day Meal Scheme. The Mid-day Meal Scheme would now be extended to upper primary classes in government and government-aided schools in all blocks of the country. This would benefit an additional 2.5 crore children, taking the total number of children covered under the scheme to 13.9 crore. The focus of the Sarv Siksha Abhiyan would shift from access and infrastructure at the primary level to enhancing retention, improving quality of learning and ensuring access to upper primary classes. He said the model school programme, which aims at establishing 6,000 high quality model schools, would start this year and Rs 650 crore had been proposed for the scheme. Navodaya vidyalayas would be established in 20 districts that had a large concentration of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. On the National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme, which was announced last year to enable students to continue their education beyond Class VIII and up to Class XII, he said 1,00,000 scholarships would be awarded and a corpus of Rs 3,000 crore built up in four years. The finance minister said pointing out that India has the opportunity become a knowledge society, he said following the Prime Minister's announcement an IIM had started functioning at Shillong, IISERs had started at Mohali, Pune and Kolkata and an IIIT at Kanchipuram. Referring to the government's promise to establish a central university in the uncovered states, he said 16 central universities would be established in 2008-09.

  • FM raises a toast to women, minorities

    The Union Budget 2008-09 has seen funds for women, minorities and Scheduled Tribes go up substantially. One of the beneficiaries of a 24 per cent rise in allocations for the Ministry of Women and Child Development is a plan to prevent trafficking of girls for which the ministry has chalked out a scheme called Ujjwala. The Budget has kept a provision of Rs 9 crore for the scheme, following sustained campaign by NGOs and international bodies. The ministry's allocation of Rs 7,200 crore for 2008-09 is up from Rs 5,793 crore, the revised estimate for the 2007-08 Budget. A major part of the enhanced allocations would go to Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) that caters to the nutritional and healthcare needs of pre-school children and mothers in rural areas. The ICDS allocation is mainly meant for the hiked emolument for workers and helpers of some 6,284 Anganwadi centres across the country. Another Rs 200 crore has been allocated for a new scheme

  • Till the very last rupee

    The budget this year provided 15 per cent higher allocation for health and 20 per cent for education. However, this may not mean that more children will learn to read or write or more doctors will be available at public health centres. In the present context, outlays are supposed to be considered ends in themselves. While higher outlays are welcome, there is an urgent need to measure outcomes, the actual effectiveness of a government scheme. A clear index of deliverables is what will lead to other reforms: rewarding states that are doing it right and implementing mid-course correction in areas where the scheme fails to take off. A paragraph towards the end of this year's budget speech shows that the government is beginning to wake up to this need: "I think we do not pay enough attention to outcomes as we do to outlays; or to physical targets as we do to financial targets; or to quality as we do to quantity. Government therefore proposes to put in place a Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System (CPSMS) that will be implemented as a Plan scheme of the Planning Commission.' It is heartening to see an acknowledgement of a long-felt void. As the government disburses more money, there is an even greater need to track it better, to find out a rupee's worth in intervention A versus B or its performance in different states. For now, one has to depend on a few private NGOs/research institutions who fulfill this need: For example, Pratham, an NGO working in the field of primary education, comes out with an annual survey called ASER that has some startling findings on Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, a Centrally-sponsored programme that aims to put all children into school, even in the remotest parts of India. They found the number of days a teacher is actually teaching in class is abysmally low. They had a percentage for children who are in secondary school but can neither read nor write. There is no government agency that comes up with similar data. India is wasting precious resources if teachers are not found in classrooms after two decades of the existence of this "flagship programme'. The government did make an effort to come out with an "outcome budget' but, according to experts, it was not even worth the paper it was written on. It had never-ending tables with targets achieved in the form of numbers. Drinking water reports had data on the number of taps and villages covered but not the quality, quality and availability of water that is distributed. The outcome budget stops short of measuring important aspects like absenteeism and who is accessing these services created by these schemes. Anyone reading it will be no wiser if she wants to find out where to put the money the next year. Once government has evolved the mechanism of measuring these outcomes, it can take the next step: link performance with outlays for states. Infant mortality rate, extent of immunisation, literacy for women, feeding programmes should be systematically collated to form a clear index. Central share of the scheme's money should be transferred based on the performance of states on this index. The fuzziness on performance has another implication too: the government is not able to under-take mid-course correction. For example, the Supreme Court has asked the government to universalise the Integrated Child Development Programme. With no improvement in malnourishment figures for children, which are higher than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, there is clearly something wrong. The government is starting from scratch in trying to figure out what is going wrong. A fresh committee has been set up to brainstorm, without any data to arrive at clear answers. The number of anganwadis set up each of the last five years, state-wise, is available. But it has no information on whether the anganwadi worker actually comes there, feeds children in the 0-6 age group with supplementary nutrition, takes care of their health and immunisation needs and pays special attention to malnourished children. N.C. Saxena, who is a court-appointed commissioner for monitoring the mid-day meals and the ICDS programme, is a strong votary for measuring outcomes versus outlays. In an article, he goes as far as to suggest action against officers who indulge in bogus reporting of figures. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the number of fully immunised children being reported by the state government was almost 100 per cent in 2002-03. A rapid household survey found only 30 per cent of children to be fully immunised. "Such cases of flagrant over-reporting should not go unpunished,' he says, stressing on the need for independent agencies verifying data for the government and then disseminating it widely. Such steps will need a complete change in bureaucratic mindset. This signal from the finance minister, hopefully, will not go unnoticed if India is serious about inclusive growth.

  • SHGs fight over mid-day meal order

    MIDNAPORE: The midday meal programme in Murari SC High School in Belpahari block in Midnapore West had to be closed by the school authorities indefinitely a day after it was introduced following an or

  • Cold Comfort (Editorial)

    Minister recommends packaged food as mid-day meal in schools

  • Future Food: India - 'Fat or Skinny?'

    In India Tulika Verma is on a mission to ban junk food from Delhi’s schools – where over one in six schoolchildren are overweight. Western-style diets and processed food are becoming ever more popular

  • How Successful Is Prime Minister's 100 Per cent Toilets-In-Schools Promise?

    In October last year, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat campaign, there was one thing he did differently as a politician. He set a target to achieve 100 per cent toilets in every

  • How to Breathe Easy in Delhi’s Toxic Air?

    Delhi has been in an 'emergency-like situation' for several months now due to severe levels of air pollution and there seems to be no respite in store. The sharp dip in the levels of air quality index

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