Demand to improve quality of life for kids under six years

September 3rd, 2008 - 12:17 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 2(IANS) Over 800 women from 15 states assembled here Tuesday for a public meeting to remind policy makers of their commitment to better the quality of lives of children under six years. Referring to promises made by prime minister Manmohan Singh on Independence Day, Jean Dreze, economist and child rights activist, said: “Child nutrition is one of the main unfulfilled promises of the government. The time has to come to act on this promise and exhibit a strong political and financial commitment towards the issue.”

“We are here to present our charter of demands to the prime minister and make it known to the government that we want good quality anganwadis (primary health care centres), universal coverage of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) as well as the provision of crèche facility for working parents and maternity benefits for women,” said M. Kasiyammal, Tamil Nadu Anganwadi Workers Union vice-president.

Vandana Prasad, representing the Working Group for Children Under Six, said: “Even while we are urging the government to adopt and implement a more holistic policy on children under six and work towards making ICDS an intervention capable of addressing all the basic concerns of children from 0-6 years, we are finding that commercial interests are intent on undermining the rights of children.”

Sayeeda Hamid, member of Planning Commission, appealed to the women “not to be disheartened” and said: “Given the fact that children continue to be malnourished in unacceptable and large numbers, we need to review the on-going efforts being made to address the issue.”

In India, 46 percent of young children are underweight, only 44 percent are immunized and almost 80 percent are anaemic. These alarming figures raise eyebrows but have yielded little action from the government, said a note issued by Working Group for Children Under Six.

Less than 30 percent of children under-six, pregnant and lactating mothers received any services from the anganwadis. ICDS has not been universalized despite the Supreme Court deadline of December 2008.

“Anganwadi is the cornerstone of the ICDS programme, it must be given its due place under the sun, fully recognized and sustained by both the civil society and the government,” said Shantha Sinha, chairperson National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

The public meeting was followed by a rally from Jantar Mantar and to Parliament Street, where workers and activists presented the charter of demands at the Prime Minister’s Office.

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