The state has introduced several welfare measures in the past and these have contributed to reducing income poverty in rural areas. However, access to and quality of basic services in health, nutrition, education and sanitation remain poor especially for disadvantaged social groups such as scheduled castes and tribes which challenges the progress and nature of state sponsored development programmes.
Given the demographic composition of the state where nearly 28 million people or 37% of the population is between the ages of 6-18 the implications of a lagging social sector for the overall well-being of children in the state is a major issue of concern. While the state has been able to create a platform for womens economic participation through self-help groups and over 500,000 groups are functioning across districts, the full potential of the social capital generated has not been harnessed to impact the key social development indicators for children. These include all children in school, reduced malnutrition, infant mortality rate, maternal mortality ratio, improved age at marriage and other health and hygiene practices.
Even while the state is on track to achieve universal primary enrolment (according to the District Education System for Education 2005-6, the gross enrolment ratio is nearly 100 per cent), the realization of the critical MDGs related to universal completion of elementary education remains a concern for the state given the poor quality of teaching and learning in the majority of state schools.
In addition, according to a 2007 report by ASER, nearly seven per cent of all children between the ages of 7-16 are still out of school. Older girls and children belonging to marginalized communities remain most vulnerable to being out of school
Challenges and Opportunities
In Andhra Pradesh, high rates of malnutrition are endemic to the state. Almost 40 per cent (37 per cent) of children aged under three years are underweight and 34 per cent are stunted. Wasting is recorded among 13 per cent of children and the micronutrient situation is equally disturbing with nearly 79 per cent of children suffering from anaemia (NFHS-3).
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF's Child Development and Nutrition programme in Andhra Pradesh aims to address stunting and undernutrition among infants and young children. CDN focuses on actions that address nutrient deprivation in children - wasting, stunting and underweight issues. UNICEF supports the promotion of appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, including nutrition supplementation, treatment and management of severe acute malnutrition and food fortification.