A long way to go for child health

Karnataka may score above national average in various indicators of child health and nutrition, but it has a lot of hard work to do before children in the State can be described as healthy as per the National Policy for Children, 2012.

Quoting the Special Registration Survey, 2012, and the latest Coverage Evaluation Survey (United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), Dr Maya Mascarenhas of Myrada, a child rights NGO, pointed out that sex ratio in Karnataka is 960 girls per 1,000 boys, higher than the national average of 940:1,000.

As for infant mortality rate (IMR), the present national average is 42 per 1,000 births whereas in Karnataka it is 32 per 1,000 births, according to Ruth Leano, chief of field office for Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Unicef.

They were speaking at a State-level consultation on the policy here on Thursday. The event was organised by the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory, a consortium of child rights NGOs.

The positive trends aside, the neonatal mortality rate in Karnataka is still 44 per 1,000 births, and the mortality rate under five years is 61 per 1,000 live births, Leano added. Besides, as many as 12 lakh children suffer from moderate malnutrition and about 70,000 severe malnutrition in the State, she explained.

“In north Karnataka districts of Gulbarga and Raichur, the health indicators for children are worse than those in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar,” Mascarenhas said. “Although several schemes exist for children, there are glaring mismatches between them and the ground reality.”

Prasoon Sen, Communication Specialist, Unicef, Hyderabad, highlighted the need for NGOs to shift focus from a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach.

Sony Kutty, Child Protection Officer, Unicef, Hyderabad mentioned the various positive changes in the new policy as compared with the one that existed in 1974. The presence of guiding principles, financial allocation for children’s welfare made the policy in its new form more apt to address the problems affecting children.

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