Making Child’s Life Better
Innocent smiles, shining eyes, rosy plumped cheeks, and those out of the blue questions that make your tummy tickle yet scratch your head. These are the impressions, which shower our minds when we think of children. Alas, a mere utopia. But the harsh reality familiarizes us with empty hopeless eyes and tummies, which have never even dreamed of smiles. Empty classrooms echo with the silence of giggles, which is the right of each child.
Making this utopia a reality is the aim of United Nations Children’s Fund better known as UNICEF headquartered in New York. What makes UNICEF unique in India is its network of 13 state offices. These enable the organisation to focus attention on the poorest and most disadvantaged communities, alongside its work at the national level. As we inch towards World UNICEF day which falls on 11th December we decide that Lucknowites needs to familiarize themselves with their own UNICEF team and its work in their city.
Aakhir shahar hai aapka !
So we set out to meet Mr Atul Kumar, Communication Specialist for UNICEF, Uttar Pradesh.
His four years of experience with UNICEF – Lucknow dictates that government effort alone can never be enough. It always needs social catalysts such as activists, NGOs and even individual efforts to strengthen it. UNICEF feels that in Lucknow their purpose is to bring together different people and organizations under one roof to achieve the common purpose of children welfare.
He briefly acquaints us with the AIDS programme whose bottom line he cites as Getting to Zero. Here the zero targets to be achieved is in reference to the number of cases and in terms of discrimination with HIV-AIDS patients. Media is given thorough credit here where several columns of some leading dailies were devoted to stories of such discrimination. Mr. Kumar feels that UNICEF plays an important role as far as the media interface is concerned for government and it’s outreach programmes. These days the stress is upon PPTCT or Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission. What this means is that even if one or both the parents are HIV-AIDS positive, with proper precautions and regular medication they can ensure that their child will be born free of the disease.
In 2012 UNICEF supported the NGO Ummeed in making the world’s largest red ribbon on cantonment grounds.
On the question of how educational material used to spread realization on the importance of safe sex has to be visually explicit and the extent of the problem caused by the discretion of the police whether such tools are pornographic or not Mr. Kumar eloquently pointed out the existence of this perennial dichotomy.
The role of peer educators has been emphasised. Mr Kumar feels that at UNICEF they believe it’s time to switch over from the awareness lane to the action lane and we couldn’t agree with him more.
Mr. Nirmal Singh, SMNet coordinator for UNICEF, Uttar Pradesh further enlightened us on the role of UNICEF in eradicating polio.
There are 17 states in India where urgent action is needed; of which UP has the greatest strength of children. At the same time while India has celebrated 3 years of being polio free, Uttar Pradesh has celebrated 4 years of the same.
The polio programme has been bifurcated into surveillance and mobilization. As far as surveillance is concerned WHO (World Health Organization) and NPSP play a key role in the same. While UNICEF, CORE, and Rotary come into the picture when we speak of mobilization.
When we speak of mobilization we have to mention UNICEF’s SMNet or the Social Mobilizing Network.
This revolutionary technique is exclusive to UP and Bihar. A network of a staggering number of 4900 to 5600 members, covers issues ranging from sanitation, nutrition, and routine immunization to flagship programs like Bal Poshan and real time monitoring of vaccination. The efforts of such, target oriented programmes is reflected in the improving records of areas like Bakshi ka Talab and the areas around Imambada which are in the 28 target areas in Lucknow.
One of the major hurdles to polio immunization has been tracking the migrating population of UP.
Routine immunization was of immense importance a few years ago. But now, the need of the hour is the role of monitoring. One of the greatest task that Mr. Kumar points out on part of these authorities was managing the cold chain. The cold chain is the process of storing the vaccines in a cool place from the time of manufacture to transportation to actual deliverance in order to preserve the quality of the same, which they manage with surprising efficiency.
Apart from these specific oriented programmes there have been more generalised efforts towards child welfare. One of these has been the initiative of Meena Commnication. The popular radio show Meena ki Duniya released 160 episodes in which lessons of healthcare, awareness, sanitation and a range of other relevant topics were covered through an interactive platform of stories, songs, and games. Scenes of students huddled around a single radio set listening rapt with attention and excitement in government schools became common. Apart from that teachers were asked to keep record of the answers given or comments of students as a part of the interactive portion of the programme.
We believe Mr. Atul Kumar’s closing remark on the question of whether UNICEF’s work in Lucknow is done, very aptly summarizes the role of UNICEF in the lives of the children of Lucknow.
“Definitely not. Our work can never be done until the rights of all children are achieved. Till the day every child is immunized, till the day every child goes to school, every marginalized girl goes to school, our work is not done. We are all accountable to the children of Lucknow. To the children of Uttar Pradesh”.
Writer is from Lucknow and admires traveling
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 1 Issue 9, Dated 05 December 2015)