Marking International Women’s Day a panel of guests from Government of India, UNICEF, UN Women, the International Center for Research on Women, Jagori, Google, UNICEF led programme called Deepshikha and Barclays will be discussing the situation of women and girls in India, what the Government and other stakeholders are doing about it, what are the schemes and programmes to promote gender equality and women/girls empowerment, the key priorities for the Government, the UN and civil society organizations in this area, as well as recommendations for the way forward.
PATNA, India, 20 February 2014 - In the august precincts of the state’s highest policy-making institution, the Bihar Legislative Assembly secretariat, over one hundred children and adolescents from different districts turned into passionate policy-makers and shared their concerns with real policy-makers, including, the Hon’ble Speaker of Bihar State Legislative Assembly, Shri Uday Narayan Choudhary, some legislators and officials from Bihar government, Bihar State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Unicef, NGOs, teachers, parents and media.
“We do not belong to any caste or religion, we are not rich or poor, young or old, girl, boy or transgender – we are just children. If you do not take care of us, who should we turn to?,” asked Priyamvara, 13, as she went on the dias with 20 other children to present her group’s recommendations before Hon’ble Speaker, Secretary SCPCR, Director, Social Welfare and UNICEF Bihar Chief and a 200 plus gathering.
Three other working groups of children took turns to present recommendations for Bihar State Policy for Children on four priority areas including survival, development, protection and participation on 15 February 2014.
Over 200 children, from government and private schools as well as out-of-school children, including those from children’s homes, working and street children, those with disabilities, HIV, — met from 12-15 February in Patna to deliberate on the national and state policy for children in consultations organised by SCPCR and UNICEF.
In earlier workshops, children developed, with the support from UNICEF, a child-friendly version of the National Policy for Children (NPC) 2013. “When we first read the NPC 2013, we did not understand it. The language, although in Hindi, was so difficult.We did not what was meant by `Policy, Indivisible Rights, Non-discrmination, accountability etc, explained Pawan, who along with Priyamvada made a short presentation on the child friendly NPC.
“We discussed and explained the difficult concepts in very simple language and also put in some drawings made by children at Kilkari. We hope this child-friendly version of NPC will be made available to all children in the state and will help them understand what is in the policy for us, children,” added Priyamvada.
These consultations with children are part of a broader process of consultations on Bihar Policy for Children with key stakeholders organised at State and divisional level by the Department of Social Welfare, GoB with support from Alliance from Child Protection Bihar and UNICEF and Save the Children as key partners.
The recommendations from all consultations will be submitted to the Department of Social Welfare, GoB for review and subsequent incorporation in the Bihar State Policy for Children being drafted by the state government. Children
“It is very encouraging to see that children are participating in the policy development process,“ said UNICEF Bihar Chief, Dr Yameen Mazumder. “The seriousness with which children have looked into each aspect of their rights, the confidence with which they have put forth their views, and the new perspectives and valuable suggestions they have brought in for the State Policy for children strengthen our belief in children’s participation”, he explained.
A glimpse into some policy recommendations made by children
Just as the chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar holds a regular Janata Darbaar to listen to the grievances of people, a `baccha darbaar’ should held to listen to children
Every department which has anything to do with children’s issues, should nominate a nodal officer to meet children/ know their issues/suggestions
A suggestion box / or toll free phone should be placed in public facilities ( hospital, schools, government departments ) for children to share their issues/views
Government officials should send their own children to study in govenment schools. That way, they ill know about the situation in scools and try to improve it . Similarly they should visit government hospitals for their own treatment to know and improve health facilities.
There should platforms for children’s participation in all communities / villages / schools — from panchayat to state level; in SCPCR committee and even in State and National Parliament
Text- Nipurnh Gupta
NALGONDA, India, 18 February 2014 -It was a warm evening in October when Shantamma’s daughter was born. The doctor was unsure if the baby would survive, as she weighed a perilous 1.2 kilograms (kg), less than half of the normal weight of 2.5 kg.
Shamtamma’s family started making hurried arrangements to transport the mother and child, over 100 kilometers, from her remote village in Mallepalli to the Niloufer hospital in Hyderabad – the biggest public hospital for newborns in the State.
Shantamma however had another destination in mind, the small district hospital in Nalgonda, 60 kilometers away. Shantamma’s decision would prove to be crucial in saving her first born. Even perhaps without realizing it, she had made her way to the first and only district hospital in Andhra Pradesh that had a Level II accredited Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU).
“Someone told me there was a special ward in the District Hospital which is better than any medical college or any private hospital, I didn’t know anything else, but hoped and prayed everything would go smoothly,” says Shantamma.
Eleven days later, Shantamma was discharged. Both mother and child went home well on the way to recovery. It’s a story that would have ended very differently a year ago, or even today in many parts of the State and the country where SNCUs are still a distant dream.
An SNCU is especially effective to addresses the problems of low-birth, pre-term deliveries as it simulates the environment of the womb. The baby is provided warmth, prevented from infection and carefully fed so as to ensure all the systems in its body that have stopped growing and developing on account of premature delivery are back on track.
The Nalgonda SNCU
A stand-alone unit, designed with the technical support of UNICEF, the Nalgonda SNCU is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery including and has round-the-clock specialist doctors, trained nurses and auxiliary staff members.
Low birth weight, pre-term deliveries and sepsis (infections) are estimated to account for over 80 percent of all infant deaths in Andhra Pradesh today. It was in a bid to combat these challenges that the 20 bedded Nalgonda SNCU was set up in August 2012, as part of a State-wide comprehensive newborn care project by the AP government.
The project was initiated to reduce neonatal mortality rates that have remained largely unchanged in the last few years, at 28-30 per thousand live births.
Because of its high standard of care, it became the first SNCU in the State to receive the National Neonatal Forum (NNF) accreditation, the first public sector neonatal unit in Andhra Pradesh to be awarded such recognition and amongst the very few in South India.
“We are able to deal with problems of low-birth weight, pre-terms and sepsis, and this has contributed to save more than three quarters of all the cases we have received. The mortality rates have fallen by at least 50 percent,” says Dr Khader Jeelani, a pediatrician in the Nalgonda SNCU.
“This would have been only a dream without this facility and proves SNCUs can play a vital role in improving public healthcare in the districts,” addsDr Jeelani.
Stories of healthy babies and happy parents have spread through word-of-mouth and this has resulted in the SNCU opening its doors to more and more patients each day.
The impressive outcomes of the Nalgonda project has given impetus to the government and policy makers to expand the number of such quality new born care facilities across the State. The Government has already embarked on its mission to have over 44 SNCUs covering all the districts of AP. Teams of doctors and nurses are already being trained in the user-friendly and technological advanced machinery to be used in SNCUs.
“The Nalgonda project has highlighted the huge potential of these SNCUs in saving newborn lives in Andhra Pradesh. Now, there is a confidence that this can be replicated across the State and we will be able to save more newborns in future” explains Dr. Sanjeev Upadhyaya, UNICEF Health Specialist, who initiated the collaboration with the Nalgonda district hospital for the SNCU project.
Meet Hakeem Syed Masoom Ali Azad, one of the many heroes who led India to the victory over polio. India has completed three years without any case of polio. India’s accomplishment paves the way for polio-free certification of 11 member countries of South East Asia region of World Health Organisation. This milestone is being celebrated across India as the country’s greatest public health achievement. As recently as 2009, India accounted for nearly half of all cases of polio, and was long considered one of the most difficult places in the world to eradicate the crippling disease.
The dark hour before a new dawn
Back in 2002, when rest of India had taken giant strides in overcoming polio, northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, also India’s most populous state, inspite of best of its efforts had hit the wall in its fight to end polio. Of the 1600 polio cases reported in India that year, a whopping 80 per cent of them 1,242 cases, were in Uttar Pradesh, a state that had never in history disentangled itself from polio.
What was more worrying, was over 80 per cent of the children struck by polio in 2002 were predominantly boys and Muslims. A child from the Muslim community was five times more likely than a non-Muslim child to have not received even one dose of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV).
The spiral in the cases of polio, at that time, was singularly blamed on the resistance by the underserved community to polio immunization drives. A large percentage of the community in many districts of Uttar Pradesh including Moradabad, felt that the polio vaccination was a covert family planning drive and the vaccine contained substances that were forbidden under Islam.
Joining the forces to root out evil
It was at that time, UNICEF and the other polio partners initiated the underserved strategy. The crux of the strategy was to ensure acceptance of OPV by the underserved communities with confidence building measure. Key partnerships followed with the Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia University and Jamia Hamdard and support of Muslim institutions such as the All India Milli Council, All India Muslim Personal law Board, Islamic Fiqh Academy, Darul Uloom Deoband, Jamait Ulama-i-Hind, All India Hajj Committee and key shrines.
The focus of the strategy was advocacy, immunization and prayers for polio eradication at festivals and religious congregations; mosque announcements for polio immunization, appeals and fatwas in support of the programme.
As part of the well thought out strategy, an Ulemma Committee in Uttar Pradesh was formed and senior Muslim scholars and religious leaders like Hakeem Syed Masoom Ali Azad were approached to address issues of resistance in Muslim communities against the polio vaccine. Hakeem Syed Masoom Ali Azad has been the Shaher Imam (chief cleric of the city) of Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, for last twenty seven years. The ancestors of Syed Masoom Ali Azad have held the position of Moradabad’s Shaher Imam for the last 200 years.
An authority on Islamic jurisprudence, the Shaher Imam is the most respected person in his community. His word is treated as gospel and whenever he has a message for his community; it is normally accepted However, when theShaher Imam associated himself with the polio immunisation campaign in Moradabad, he found stiff resistance from his community.
“It was tough. There were so many misconceptions about the vaccine causing impotence or being manufactured from haram substances,” he says. “When I approached people, they didn’t call me names or abused me like they did to the polio workforce, but they were not comfortable with my messages,” he adds. For the Shaher Imam, the resistance was understandable, for like many other people in western Uttar Pradesh, he too had queries about the polio vaccination drive and the vaccine itself.
The Shaher Imam sought information from UNICEF, WHO and partners as well as Muslim medical practitioners and was convinced that the vaccine wouldn’t cause any harm. The oral polio vaccine was tested by the medical college at Aligarh Muslim University and the university publically declared that it was safe. This strengthened his belief that the vaccine was indeed safe and for the good of the community.
An advocacy booklet, prepared by the Jamia Millia Islamia University and UNICEF, with verses from Quran and Hadith (sayings of the prophet Mohammed) promoting child health and in support of polio vaccination, further convinced him.
The final victory
The Shaher Imam used all the knowledge that he had acquired and the advocacy booklet to convince the community to vaccinate their children. He went door to door as well as used his pulpit during Friday prayers to appeal for polio vaccination.
“I first got my grandson immunized for everyone to see and be convinced that the polio vaccine is safe. “I would tell them the welfare of the children is the duty of every parent. If they will not vaccinate the children against polio, they will be liable to God’s punishment for not fulfilling their responsibilities,” says Shaher Imam.
Soon the Darul Aloom Deoband (One of India’s biggest Islamic seminary) issued a fatwa (an Islamic edict) that ruled that polio vaccine was safe and that it contained no substances which are not permissible in Islam. “Given the fatwa came from a such a highly respected institution of the country, Muslims were bound to pay heed to the fatwa,” saysShaher Imam.
On many occasions, Shaher Imam would inaugurate the polio immunisation booth, as the ceremonial start to a polio campaign. “I would tell them, if diseases are sent by Allah, so too are the medicines,” the Shaher Imam adds.
The Shaher Imam’s efforts along with other Imams in Uttar Pradesh and thousands of frontline workers have contributed to break the last pockets of resistance in Uttar Pradesh.
As India today celebrates the triumph over polio, the Shaher Imam has a word of caution, “polio is still endemic in India’s neighbouring countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We need to be vigilant that the gains we have made are not frittered away,” signs off the Shaher Imam.
Join us in congratulating Shaher Imam along with thousands of religious leaders of Uttar Pradesh who supported the polio eradication programme selflessly and helped India stop polio. They have been brilliant in their efforts and we thank them all for their work. Thank You Shaher Imam.
Text: Idhries Ahmad
Meet volunteer Gulshan Bano, one of the thousands of frontline workers who have made possible for India to not report any case of wild poliovirus over the last three years. Officially the entire South East Asia Region will be certified as being polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) by the 27 March 2014.
This milestone is being celebrated across India as the country’s greatest public health achievement. As recently as 2009, India accounted for nearly half of all cases of polio, and was long considered one of the most difficult places in the world to eradicate the crippling disease.
Over the last decade and a half, Gulshan Bano, along with 5,660 equally committed workers of the Polio Social Mobilization Network (SMNet), has been working, against all odds, as a Community Mobilization Coordinator (CMC) to make sure all children in Badaun, and are vaccinated with oral polio vaccine every time it is offered.
The SMNet was established in 2001 by UNICEF to address the pockets of resistance to polio vaccination in areas of western Uttar Pradesh. In time, it expanded across the state and to neighbouring Bihar.
Gulshan Bano hails from the remote rural hamlet of Pushgawan in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. Married to a man from a traditional family, she had never stepped out of her house without the permission of her family before she joined the SMNet. “I knew, however, that I wanted to do more with my life,” she explains while adding that this is why she decided to join the SMNet.
“Initially, I thought it would be an easy job and all I had to do was to tell families and mothers to come and get their child inoculated,” remembers Gulshan. However, not everything was that easy as she faced serious resistance from families who were against the vaccine. “I couldn’t believe they were against these two vital drops. They threatened us, threw stones and invited us to not visit their houses again,” adds Gulshan.
Rigorous trainings, where the mobilizer was taught the art of persuasion and negotiation, gave her courage to get through the hard phase.
Slowly, but surely, Gulshan Bano, along with other SMNet members, religious leaders and community elders was able to influence the perceptions of people in Pushgawan about the need to protect their children from polio.
Gulshan’s contribution to mobilizing communities for polio vaccination included interpersonal communication with parents and caregivers during house-to-house visits and group meetings with mothers before each polio round.
Children in her neighbourhood call her Polio Didi (Sister). Her views are respected, and her own family takes great pride in her achievements. Today, there is not a single child in Pushgawan, who has not received polio drops, thanks to the work of Gulshan Bano and volunteers like her.
Uttar Pradesh was once a hotbed for polio and now thanks to Gulshan and thousands of volunteers like Gulshan Bano, that state has not reported any case of polio for more than four years now.
Far from being complacent with achieving a polio-free India, Gulshan feels even more motivated to keep up the good work to ensure that the community she works with does not report a case of wild poliovirus ever again.
Send a congratulatory message to Gulshan and other committed workers of the Polio Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) who have been working hard to protect India’s children against deadly polio virus.
These messages will not only put a smile on the mobilizers’ faces but motivate the SMNet team to continue their work with zest and vigour.
In late 1970s, up to 200,000 children in India were paralyzed or killed by polio every year. Since 2011, there has been none. Once considered the hardest place to eradicate polio, India celebrates today three years since its last case. This unprecedented progress against polio will pave the way for polio-free certification of the entire South East Asia Region of the World Health Organization in end March 2014.
We take a look at key highlights in the fight against the disease in the last decade and half.
UNICEF establishes the Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) in Uttar Pradesh (UP) to mobilize community for polio immunization. Amitabh Bachchan becomes UNICEF Brand Ambassador for Polio.
Taking over from private donors, the Government of India takes the lead role in financing polio eradication activities in the country using its own resources. WHO-NPSP expands the network. The over 200 surveillance medical officers now support planning and monitoring of polio campaigns in addition to surveillance. Rotary International hosts first Polio Summit in India.
The under-served strategy is introduced as part of communication efforts in Uttar Pradesh to reach out to and get support of marginalized sections of the society for polio eradication. UNICEF expands the Social Mobilization Network to Bihar.
Poliovirus surveillance increases in sensitivity. The programme is now able to rapidly detect poliovirus transmission anywhere in the country. Transit vaccination strategy launched, with teams stationed at bus stands, railway stations, highways, markets and at congregation sites. Rotary International hosts the second Polio Summit in India to accelerate Polio eradication.
More effective monovalent oral polio vaccines (mOPV), tackling either type 1 or type 3 wild poliovirus, introduced. Social mobilization intensifies, with enhanced involvement of religious leaders, Muslim institutions, mosques and madrasas. Influencers from within the community are identified and assigned to vaccination teams to enhance acceptance of polio vaccine.
Enumeration, vaccination and tracking of new-borns begins in UP and Bihar. The vaccinators are given a special booklet to register all new-borns and immunize them for at least eight polio rounds.
Operational strengthening takes place to improve micro planning for revisits to households with unvaccinated children following the first contact with vaccinators.
Rotary International forms Ulemas’ Committee in Uttar Pradesh to enhance Muslim community support. Accelerated immunization rounds take place almost monthly in polio-endemic states of UP and Bihar.
People moving out of the endemic states with families are identified and immunized in Punjab, Gujarat, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Delhi.
Kosi River Plan drawn up to intensify and focus efforts in Bihar. High-risk blocks are mapped, and additional stay points built for enhanced supervision and efforts in the hardest-to-reach areas where children are being missed.
WHO-NPSP further expands – 333 surveillance medical officers on the ground cover all parts of India.
107 Block Plan is introduced in UP and Bihar. Underlying factors for polio are targeted: routine immunization, sanitation, diarrhoea management and exclusive breastfeeding. Focus on migrant populations in brick kilns, construction sites, slums and nomadic settlements. Rotary pledges US$200 million against Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s pledge of US$355 million.
Bivalent oral polio vaccine (bop), which tackles both type 1 and 3 wild poliovirus serotypes concurrently, introduced in India. The Government of India, through the India Expert Advisory Group on polio eradication, recommends responding to each case of polio as a public health emergency.
Bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV), which tackles both type 1 and 3 wild poliovirus serotypes concurrently, introduced in India. The Government of India, through the India Expert Advisory Group on polio eradication, recommends responding to each case of polio as a public health emergency.
India removed from the list of polio endemic countries after completing a year without reporting any case of polio in January, a major milestone in the history of polio eradication.
India has completed two years without any case of polio! This is an unprecedented progress for a country, which until recently accounted for nearly half the world’s polio cases. This important milestone demonstrates that the existing polio eradication strategies are effective in stopping polio and makes India more confident of achieving its goal of eradicating the virus.
Once considered the hardest place to eradicate polio, India celebrates today three years since its last case. This unprecedented progress against polio will pave the way for polio-free certification of the entire South East Asia Region of the World Health Organization in end March 2014. A high-level celebration is planned for 11 February. This is a monumental milestone for India, which until 2009 accounted for more than half the world’s polio incidence with 741 cases of polio paralysis.
The Government of India is celebrating today a landmark achievement in public health– the victory over polio. India has not reported any case of polio since a two-year old girl got polio paralysis on 13 January 2011 in Howrah district of West Bengal.
The celebration today, organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will be graced by Hon. President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Chairperson and other dignitaries
The highlight of the event will be over 1,000 representatives from the field – the vaccinators from across the country, the social mobilisers, the surveillance medical officers and the health department officials – who were undeniably the key players in India’s proud story of victory over polio.
UNICEF congratulates the Government of India and the people of the country on this magnificent achievement today. “This is a triumph for India today, but even so for the soon to be certified region and for the world. India success is a huge morale boost for the global polio eradication programme. It shows that polio eradication is possible!,” said Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, #UNICEF India Country Representative
“The achievement today is due to the strong political commitment of the Government of India and the State Governments; the seamless partnership for ending polio in the country between #WHO, Rotary and UNICEF; and the tireless efforts of the millions of community workers - the vaccinators, mobilizers, health workers - and ultimately the parents who came forward to accept polio vaccine for their children, round after round, year after year,” added Mr Arsenault.
Read full statement of UNICEF #India Country Representative, Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault: http://unicf.in/NxMx0X
Follow us on @unicefindia on Twitter for regular updates on the event.