Invest in girls’ education to break cycle of poverty: UNICEF

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NEW DELHI: Investing in education of girls, especially the most marginalized, is required to make progress on most social indicators in India, according to UNICEF.

To mark the second International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF on Friday organized a meeting with top Urdu editors in the capital.

Speaking at the event, Urmila Sarkar, chief of education UNICEF, said, “Innovation in girls education will be instrumental to female empowerment and breaking the cycle of poverty and deprivation.”

The focus of the meeting was on the crucial role that media can play to create a sustained discourse and highlight innovations that get more girls to school, keep them in school and improve the quality of learning for all children.

In India, the number of out-of-school children stands at 8.1 million, of which 4.5 million are girls. For every 100 boys enrolled, 88 girls are enrolled in secondary school. The main causes of school dropout among girls are child marriage and child labour, the UNICEF said.

Giving examples of how communities have arranged for safe school transport for girls in hard-to-reach areas from Udaipur, Rajasthan, Sarkar stressed on innovation in girls education and highlighted the importance of gender sensitization.

“Teachers who have undergone gender sensitization training have made a significant difference for adolescent girls in schools,” she said.

The conference was chaired by the vice-chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University Mohammed Miyan and director general, Doordarshan News, S M Khan.

The participants shared examples of how technology coupled with media outreach, has increased access to education for out-of-school girls and improved the quality of learning for every child.

They urged Urdu media to dedicate media space and build capacities of reporters to highlight issues and innovations in education, especially of girls.

Civil society representatives from Shikhar, Prof Rihan Khan Suri and Ambarish Rai of the RTE Forum spoke on how civil society efforts can build on the momentum created by a conducive educational policy framework and ensure that girls have access to quality learning environments.

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Publicise milk banks for malnourished babies

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While the concept of breastfeeding an infant has finally succeeded in scoring a significant victory over the baby food industry, it may still take time to set up a chain of human milk banks for babies who may have lost their mothers or whose mothers are unable to feed them for medical or other reasons. For instance, although the usual prescription is that a child must be breastfed for the first six months, it has been found that working women of the middle classes are not always able to adhere to this. This inability is different from those cases where a fashion-conscious upper class woman has erroneously convinced herself that breastfeeding spoils her figure.

Whatever the reason, it has always been known that where mother’s milk is not available, the next best alternative is the breast milk of another woman. Hence, the time-honoured concept of “wet nurses”, especially for infants whose mothers may have died in childbirth. But, since wet nurses are not always available, or are not suitable for social or economic reasons, milk banks provide the answer. But their establishment entails a highly organised and sanitised process where milk from lactating mothers are collected, pasteurised and stored. As in case of blood banks, the donors have first to be screened.

Ever since the American Academy of Paediatrics established the guidelines for milk banks in 1943, the practice has been adopted by many countries. After the first such bank was opened in Mumbai in 1989, over a dozen similar efforts have been made in other parts of India. The Infant and Young Child Feeding chapter of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics has called for formulating national guidelines for the subject. The government, health experts and the civil society must join hands, therefore, to propagate the concept of milk banks for the sake of lakhs of babies who suffer from malnutrition.

Civil society demands transparency and uninterrupted supply of TB medicines

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Raising concerns about the recent shortage of TB drugs across the country particularly of child doses used for children, TB patients, civil society and TB organisations gathered at Nirman Bhawan in Delhi today to protest against the ongoing stock-outs of TB medicines that have led to treatment interruptions across the country.

TB medicine shortages are being reported from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Nagaland and other areas, even as the Health Minister on June 21 issued a press statement denying that that there are stock-outs which prevent people from starting or continuing TB treatment, the civil society groups said.

But in reality, the Health Ministry is finally placing emergency orders for paediatric doses of TB medicines and RNTCP has written to the states to procure certain TB medicines locally. Emergency approval to procure medicines locally has been given to the states but this has its own set of problems. Besides fragmenting the market and destroying pooling power, procurement is disorganised and not always on time.

A continuous, sustainable supply of quality-assured medicines is vital for TB patients to have even half a chance of being cured. In India, it is the responsibility of the Central TB Division in the Health Ministry to ensure the uninterrupted supply of drugs to the whole country.

“As a part of the right to health, a constitutional guarantee to all persons in India, it is the government’s obligation to ensure that the quality TB medicines are accessible and available in sufficient quantity within the country,” said Anand Grover, director, Lawyers Collective HIV/ AIDS unit.

“In the past one year, we had written several times to RNTCP and the Health Ministry warning about the imminent stock outs,” said Blessina Kumar, patient advocate and vice chair, Stop TB Partnership. “Senior officials of the Health Ministry have been unwilling or unable to arrange the timely procurement of TB drugs on which lives depend. We will not be held hostage to official incompetence or negligence; patients have the right to treatment,” she adds.

UNICEF calls for child labour free India

New Delhi, June 13: Drawing attention towards the plight of children employed in various sectors, United Nations Children’s Fund Wednesday called for reforms to make the country free of child labour.

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In a joint statement issued along with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and International Labour Organisation on the occasion of ‘World Day Against Child Labour’, UNICEF said poverty was the cause and effect of child labour.

It said that children in domestic work were very vulnerable to exploitation as their work is often hidden from the public eye and they often work far away from home.

“Children migrating alone and with their families are also at increased risks, including child trafficking,” the statement said.

“Taking advantage of their vulnerability, the children are trafficked from their villages in rural or tribal areas and taken to the metro cities for work. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work are too common.”

Elimination of child labour is essential for promoting children’s right to education, preventing exploitation and ensuring their all-round growth, the statement said.

It is the responsibility of the government, civil society and parents to ensure that children are in schools and not at work.

The statement welcomed the introduction of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012.

There must be a roadmap for achieving the ultimate goal of making the country child labour free through progressive legislative and policy reforms as well as program interventions, it added.

The revised National Policy for Children {2013} adopted by the government heralds a policy shift from a welfare-based approach to a rights-based approach towards children, which is in line with India’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), it said.

PTI