CHENNAI: Even as Tamil Nadu stands as a model for the rest of the country when it comes to basic development parameters regarding children, there are areas of concern like malnutrition, neonatal mortality, sanitation and drinking water, said the State of the World’s Children Report 2015 prepared by UNICEF.
The report that was released recently as part of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) noted that Tamil Nadu had made good progress in reducing the infant mortality rate from 125/1000 live births in 1970 to 21/1000 this year. This is second only to Kerala’s 12, among the big states. In this, the State has already met the Millennium Development Goal.
“Even though we boast of meeting the IMR target we are surrounded by tough challenges,” said Andal Damodaran, president of the Indian Council for Child Welfare, Chennai.
Experts say that general factors play a vital role in affecting a child’s health. According to the report, out of the 15 million households in the State that has access to tapped drinking water, only 17 per cent of the rural households and 54 per cent of urban households have access to drinking water within the premises. Three quarters of rural households in the State do not even have access to sanitation facilities and 46 per cent of the population defecate in the open.
With reports of babies dying in Dharmapuri, experts also feel that more care should be given in building and maintaining basic infrastructure at Primary Health Centres.
“While institutional delivery is 94 per cent, immunisation of mothers and infants has drastically reduced,” said Saraswathy Rangasamy, Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TNCPCR). “While the noon meal scheme has been benefitting around 68 lakh children, there is a need to address the nutritional requirements of adolescent girls and boys which is very limited now,” she added.
On the education front, the implementation of RTE has increased the enrolment ratio in schools, but the Centre’s decision to make education compulsory till 14 years of age has been leading to a lot of drop outs from children above the cut off age.
Speaking about the efforts taken by the Social Welfare department, Minister B Valarmathi said the State has grown by leaps and bounds in improving female literacy — from 64.65 per cent five years ago to 73.83 per cent now. “In the last eight years, we have prevented 2,399 child marriages. Today more than 5,25,000 girl children have been able to get access to education. But it would’ve been very tough without the support from UNICEF,” she said.
Releasing the report at Raj Bhavan, Governor K Rosaiah said, “Even though the Convention has helped to drive remarkable progress for millions of children in the past two-and-a-half decades, it also reminds us that we have a long way to go.”