Tens of millions of people are affected annually in India, most of them from the poorest strata of the population, a high proportion of whom are children.
Every year between 2000 and 2009, 65 million people on average in India were affected by disasters; of these, 3.25 million were pregnant and lactating mothers.
Every year, 8.45 million children under five years of age are affected by disasters; of these, 1.25 million children are malnourished.
In only the last two decades, several major natural disasters have occurred in India:
• Latur Earthquake in 1993
• Orissa super-cyclone in October 1999
• Bhuj earthquake in January 2001
• Tsunami in December 2004
• Earthquake inJammu & Kashmir in October 2005
• Major flooding in Bihar, UttarPradesh, Assam, Orissa, West Bengal and other states in 2007 and 2008
• In 2009, the eastern Indian State of West Bengal was hit by cyclone Aila which affected 6.8 million people and resulted in a loss of 138 human lives.
Apart from the primary risk emerging from hazards like floods, drought etc. the background level of risk remains very high in large parts of India, this risk is contributed to by a combination of the following factors.
1. Forty-two per cent of the population lives on less than 1.25 dollars a day and the percentage of underweight children under the age of three has remained stagnant for the past seven years, standing at 45.9 per cent in 2005-06.
2. Undernutrition is directly or indirectly associated with more than one-third of all young child mortality. About 77 per cent of total under-five deaths occur before age one. The Infant Mortality Rate for India was estimated to be 53/1,000 live births in 2008 and the Maternal Mortality Ratio currently stands at 254/100,000 live births in 2004-2006
3. The percentage of working children stood at 11.8 in 2005-2006 . Two out of every three children in the country have been physically abused and 53.2 per cent of children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse .
4. Sanitation coverage in rural India increased from 37 per cent in 2000 to 46 per cent in 2008 . In urban areas 82 per cent of households currently have access to sanitation . The Government of India plans to make the country free from open defecation by the end of the Eleventh Plan in 2012.
5. The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India is estimated to be 2.37 million with an approximate national adult HIV prevalence rate of 0.29 per cent . An estimated 84 thousand children in India below the age of 15 are infected with HIV .
6. In education, the Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) in primary education has increased from 84.6 per cent in 1992-1993 to 111 per cent in 2005-2006 with much of the growth attributable to increased enrolment of girls. The estimated percentage of children not attending school in the age-group 6-10 years is 12 per cent.
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF is working jointly with Government of India on a five-year Country Programme to help India achieve its national development goals.
The overall goal of the 2008-2012 Country Programme is to advance the fulfilment of the rights of all women and children to survive, develop, participate and be protected by reducing social inequalities based on gender, caste, ethnicity or region.
UNICEF in India is the UN agency with the most extensive field office network in the country and the capacity to make a significant contribution in emergencies by complementing the Government’s efforts.
UNICEF’s response consists of urgently needed supplies to prevent disease epidemics and save lives.
UNICEF places an ever increasing emphasis on working with Government, NGO partners and other stakeholders to prepare at-risk communities to take proactive measures to reduce disaster risk and be prepared to respond to disasters.
The key benchmark for preparedness is the speedy resumption of essential social services post disaster, particularly those affecting children.
For more information and interviews, please contact:
Angela Walker, Chief of Communication, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-6093; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-1810-5861; E-mail: email@example.com
Alistair Gretarsson, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-7153-5586; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer- Media, UNICEF India
Tel: +91-98-101-70289; E-mail: email@example.com
Over the last two decades, India has borne the brunt of several major natural disasters such as the Latur Earthquake in 1993; the Orissa super cyclone in October 1999, the Bhuj earthquake in January 2001, the Tsunami strikes in December 2004 and lastly, the earthquake in Jammu & Kashmir.
During emergencies, children are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. Measles, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, malaria and malnutrition are the major killers of children during humanitarian crises. Therefore, emergency immunization is one of UNICEF’s priority interventions, along with vitamin A supplementation and therapeutic feeding centres.
UNICEF also works to ensure safe supplies of drinking water, and to improve sanitary conditions for communities and the displaced. UNICEF also advocates for early resumption of schooling as key to restoring a semblance of normalcy in the lives of affected children.
Building Back Better for Children
In responding to emergencies, UNICEF commits itself to not just bringing the situation back to how it was before the emergency, but if possible, in so doing, to build back better. This has been its guiding principle in restoring and rebuilding education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation systems after major natural calamities.