The United Nations Children Education Fund ( UNICEF)- India in its website has published an introduction of Indian states which is critical of the social and health indicators in the state of Gujarat touted for its developmental model by Narendra Modi. UNICEF says that every second child below the age of five and one mother in three is under nourished. Child labour and poor quality of education are the other worrying aspects.
“Just like the undernourished children, one mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute under-nutrition. About half of these women are also anaemic, putting them at risk of problems during pregnancy, childbirth and post natal period. Lack of awareness of proper nutrition is partially responsible for this situation,” says the UNICEF in an introduction of Gujarat on its official website.
It further says: Only about half the mothers currently choose to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their life. This deprives children of the chance to acquire natural immunities passed on through breast milk and makes them more susceptible to common childhood diseases. Older babies are also not introduced to complementary feeding at the right age.
Listing out the key challenges, the UNICEF also says that there is a large urban population with poor social sector systems. And, poor social indicators exist, particularly in the tribal areas.
The state has a bustling economy that offers families a per capita income which is higher than the national average. However, social development indicators have not been able to keep pace with economic development in this state of over 60 million people, says the report.
According to UNICEF India, almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade.
The report points out that the preliminary results of Census 2011 show that the overall sex ratio in the state has declined from 920 to 918 females per thousand males.
The report says that the Girls are still less likely to complete their education than boys. The risk of faecal contamination of water exists, since many households do not have access to toilets. The quality of education needs to be improved, as less than half the students are able to read, write and understand mathematics at levels appropriate for their age.
It calls for mobilizing the community in the six cotton-producing districts – Kutch, Vadodara, Banaskantha, Patan, Rajkot and Bhavnagar – to focus on eliminating child labour.
It may be recalled that Narendra Modi had blamed the Gujarati women for being obsessed with their figures which resulted in under-nutrition.