February 24, 2009 11:56:15 pm
Picking holes in the governments ambitious Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme,a report prepared by the Forum for Crèche and Childcare Services (FORCES) maintains that less than half of Delhis children were getting childcare facilities and nutritional supplements promised under the scheme.
Forces is a national network of organisations committed to the care of underprivileged children below the age of six. The report analysed child budget allowances and states that the government has not focussed on the girl child despite several schemes in the context of the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR).
Social activists are questioning the governments efforts after looking at CSR figures for Delhi. Since the 2001 census (when Delhis CSR stood at a dismal 865 per 1000 boys),the CSR has gone down further especially in the Northwest,West and Southwest where the CSR currently stands at 857,859 and 846,respectively.
The report also established that the government was not channelling enough funds into the childcare programmes. These were the preliminary findings of the report on the status of the young child in the context of UN Child Rights Convention (UNCRC).
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According to the report,though children constitute 41 per cent of our population,they were only getting 4.9 per cent of the budgetary provisions.
The report states that only 11.1 per cent Delhis urban poor opt for institutionalised delivery and only 35.6 per cent of the urban poor have access to ante-natal support. More worrisome is the fact that only 19.3 per cent of Delhis children were colostrum-fed and exclusive breast feeding stood at 34 per cent among new mothers.
These statistics are appalling considering that we are getting further away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Only 35 per cent of children in Delhi are covered under the ICDS scheme,leaving out a bulk of the population. This is the major reason why the state government has not been able to bring down anaemia,undernourishment or the infant mortality rate, said Razia Ismail,veteran journalist and social activist associated with the India Alliance for Child Rights.
According to the report,little has changed for children living in Delhi between Phase II conducted in 1998-99 and Phase III in 2005-2006 of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The number of children with stunted growth now stands at 35.4 per cent while it was 36.8 per cent during phase II of NFHS. Thirty-four per cent of Delhis children were underweight in 1998-99 while now 33.1 per cent are underweight.
The Delhi District Level Household Survey indicates that only 23.5 per cent children of the urban poor are immunised as against the figure of 63.2 quoted by the government NFHS III. There is a difference in government figures and it is alarming why no urgency is being shown to address these issues. The government is giving out figures that are far from reality. There is an urgent need to focus on the urban poor and the health and childcare services available to them, said Savitri Ray from FORCES.
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