India is the world’s second most populous country, with a population of over 1.2 billion. Although India’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, the situation of children in the country is still poor. In India every 20 children dies before their fifth birthday. The majority of these deaths are caused by preventable or treatable of illnesses such as diarrhea, malnutrition or pneumonia. In particular, the orphaned children become easy targets of neglected and abused. Often children who come from poor families aren’t getting the necessary support during their development, and they remain in the poverty trap. India also has 12 million child laborers. They often perform physically demanding work in dangerous conditions. More than a million children are not in education. Those who go to school often face overcrowded classrooms, inadequate sanitation and a lack of clean, safe drinking water.
We help internal refugees in India
Over the past seven years, as the conflict / civil strife has steadily escalated in Chhattisgarh more than 50,000 people have been displaced and are living in the new state of Telangana (earlier Andhra Pradesh). These internal displaced persons (IDP), most of whose belong to the Gotti Koya tribal group, were already vulnerable to poverty and have further been deprived and marginalized. The IDPs have not been able to rebuild their lives and lack access to primary health care and other services and entitlements. Many children live in a precarious situation with a high incidence of acute malnutrition, severe illnesses, lacks of opportunities for education as well as rampant child labor. The survival and development of newborn children are compromised as pregnant and lactating mothers are not given due attention in terms of health care and nutrition. Children’s language skills are deficient, and they don’t often understand enough the local language, which is used in local schools.
Save the Children Finland will work to ensure that these internally displaced children and their families’ living conditions would improve. The aim is to increase children’s and families’ access to governmental health, nutrition, livelihoods and social protection schemes, and also contribute to the realization of children’s rights. We approach our objectives, for example, by training authorities on children’s rights and protection. We train communities and the children’s parents for child care. We will focus on children having the right to express their views and to be heard by adults when making decisions on matters that affect them through the strengthening of Children groups (CG). We are opening the child-friendly learning spaces for children, and we organize opportunities for pre-school education, since they have difficulty in keeping up with education state schools due to a lack of language skills. In addition, children receive instruction in their communication skills, and after there will be held once a year meetings between children and the media. Meetings aim to raise issues related to the child protection more general awareness through various media.
More information about work of the EU delegation in India and the EuropeAid Cooperation Office:
We are working to prevent child poverty
Save the Children Finland is also working in Dungarpur, India to help the poorest children. Dungarpur, a tribal district in Rajasthan, is known for its comparatively slow progress in all human development indicators, and the children’s rights aren’t fulfilled. In Dungarpur, for example, infant mortality rate is higher than the national average, and one in three children is malnourished. Our aim is to make grants that the Indian government to provides more child-friendly, and get also the poorest children benefit from them. We will also increase people’s awareness of the social security programs, and we promote both parents, and decision-makers understanding of children’s rights and needs.
India has a high number of social protection schemes and quite a few of them cater to children. Two important programs are Palanhar Yojana (caregiver scheme for orphans and other vulnerable children), and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which guarantees 100 days work per year for rural households. Both programs have improved the living conditions of the poorest families, but in some cases even worsened the situation of children. Revenues generated from Palanhar program may not be used for the benefit of children. Another common sight in Dungarpur with regard to children and work is their engagement at the worksites of the MGNREGS. Children were frequently found at the worksites as proxy for their parents and small children were often found left at home due to lack of crèche facilities for the workers. At times, older children were missing school to look after younger siblings.
Save the Children aims to improve the well-being of vulnerable children who participate in Palanhar program. We have developed Palanhar Plus approach, which complements the state’s cash transfers, and supports the children’s parents, so that they can provide safe, healthy and happy living environment to their children.
A series of assessments brought forward the point that merely providing cash was not enough to improve the well-being of children as caretakers often lack the skills to promote children’s development and many children suffer from low self-esteem. That’s the reason why relevant skills are imparted to caretakers as well as children, for example, nourishing food and the importance of proper education. We have also developed a panel study in which we will follow the progress of those participating in the initiative. We are cooperating with the local communities and the schools to monitor orphans’ and other vulnerable children’s well-being. Save the Children also aims to improve MGNREGS program to be more children sensitive. We are also training the representatives of local administrations, who are responsible for the program. We also influence the state government to incorporate recommendations of the Save the Children’s MGNREGS study in the MGNREGS guidelines
Child care and education
By ensuring, that social protection schemes like the MGNREGS -employment scheme are child sensitive and take into account the particular needs of children, it is possible to guarantee and amplify the intended positive effects of the schemes. In Rajasthan, we support the development of the MGNREGS program so that access to child care services and education can be ensured for children to families involved in the employment program.
Poverty endanger children’s opportunity to learn
Twelve-year-old Sheela has lost both her parents and lives with her grandparents. The grandfather struggled to keep Sheela in school, but it was difficult to make ends meet. After the grandparents were supported to access a social protection scheme, Sheela is now attends school regularly and hopes to become a teacher in the future.
Indian project related to child poverty is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Red Nose Day Foundation.