CHILDREN IN INDIA
In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. The manifestations of these violations are various, ranging from child labour, child trafficking, to commercial sexual exploitation and many other forms of violence and abuse. With an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), for instance, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world. Although poverty is often cited as the cause underlying child labour, other factors such as discrimination, social exclusion, as well as the lack of quality education or existing parents’ attitudes and perceptions about child labour and the role and value of education need also to be considered. In states like Bihar, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, 60 per cent or more girls dropped out before completing their five years primary education. Trafficking of children also continues to be a serious problem in India. The nature and scope of trafficking range from industrial and domestic labour, to forced early marriages and commercial sexual exploitation. Existing studies show that over 40 per cent of women sex workers enter into prostitution before the age of 18 years. Moreover, for children who have been trafficked and rescued, opportunities for rehabilitation remain scarce and reintegration process arduous. While systematic data and information on child protection issues are still not always available, evidence suggests that children in need of special protection belong to communities suffering disadvantage and social exclusion such as scheduled casts and tribes, and the poor. The lack of available services, as well as the gaps persisting in law enforcement and in rehabilitation schemes also constitute a major cause of concern. Health
Despite health improvements over the last thirty years, lives continue to be lost to early childhood diseases, inadequate newborn care and childbirth-related causes. More than two million children die every year from preventable infections. Infant mortality in India is as high as 63 deaths per 1,000 live births. Most infant deaths occur in the first month of life; up to 47 per cent in the first week itself. While the Infant Mortality Rate showed a rapid decline during the 1980s, the decrease has slowed during the past decade. Maternal deaths are similarly high. The reasons for this high mortality are that few women have access to skilled birth attendants and fewer still to quality emergency obstetric care. In addition, only 15 per cent of mothers receive complete antenatal care and only 58 per cent receive iron or folate tablets or syrup. Children in India continue to lose their life to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, which remains the biggest killer. Tetanus in newborns remains a problem in at least five states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Assam. The number of polio cases in India declined from 1,934 in 1998 to 268 in 2001. There was a setback in 2002 as 1,600 cases were confirmed at the end of the year. But with only 225 cases of polio reported in 2003, India is well on its way to interrupting transmission and eradicating the disease. However, the proportion of children who receive vaccination against measles has dropped considerably, from 72% in 1995 to a low of 50% in 1999. It now stands at 61%. Government of India Action on Health
• Strengthen existing health systems by increasing the number of health workers • Prevent newborn deaths through home-based medical visits • Increase children’s access to immunisation
Malnutrition limits development and the capacity to learn. It also costs lives: about 50 per cent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition. In India, around 46 per cent of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47 per cent are underweight and at least 16 per cent are wasted....
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