UNICEF in Action(Assam)

UNICEF interventions in Assam focus on strengthening implementation of central and state government schemes so that they reach the most marginalized and vulnerable children and women. Under thecurrent Country Programme Action Plan (2013-2017), UNICEF is making a strategic shift from field-level implementation to improving programme effectiveness at the state level. In order to achieve this, it partners with a number of stakeholders including the government, civil society organizations, academia, media and legislatures.

UNICEF is working in Assam to improve child survival by strengthening the delivery quality of health services, providing support for capacity development and strengthening health systems, evidence based policy advocacy, monitoring and supportive supervision. It’s Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programmealso guides routine immunization drives, community and facility-based maternal and child care and adolescent health programmes, and the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PPTCT) programme.

As the lead development partner under the Call to Action scheme, UNICEF supported the Government of Assam in rolling out this special the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) strategy in the six High Priority Districts(HPDs) of Assam, Dhubri, Golaghat, Hailakandi, Karimganj, Kokrajhar, Nagaon. These districts, which constitute28 per cent of the state’s population, experience 26 per cent of its maternal deaths, 34 per cent of under-5 deaths and 45 per cent of neonatal deaths.The national Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has launched the Call to Action, as part of an international campaign , through the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

UNICEF’s Child Development and Nutrition programme is working with a range of partners to bring down rates of under nutrition in children and women. Partners include the departments of Education, Health and Family Welfare and Social Welfare, the Assam Branch India Tea Association (ABITA) and NGOs.UNICEF in Assam strives to improve conditions for women and children under two yearsof age by supporting the delivery of evidence-based, high-impact nutrition interventions. The focus is on economically disadvantaged populations and socially excluded groups especially in the tea gardens areas. The aim is to scale up all essential health and nutrition schemes across the state with a focus on six RMNCH+A districts, including three HPDs which fall under the ICDS mission.

In terms of Education programmes, UNICEF is working in Assam to improve literacy outcomes by providing technical support to the state Education Department. This effort is helping them implement key programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the national “Education for All” scheme, and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), the national universal secondary education programme. It also supports the State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) and Directorate of Social Welfare (DSW) to strengthen systems, build staff capacity, and encourage collaboration between state and civil society partners. UNICEF’s global Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) approach is being used as a holistic solution to draw together a range of strategies that will improve education standards, in line with the national Right to Education (RTE) strategy.  

In terms of Child Protection, UNICEF is supporting partners to ensure effective implementation of various child protection and education-related laws and schemes. These include the Right to Education, Juvenile Justice, Child Labour, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), Immoral Trafficking and Criminal Law (Amendment) acts; and the SSA, RMSA, Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). UNICEF focuses on helping form and strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms, including children and adolescent groups and child protection committees at the village level.

In Assam, UNICEF’sWater, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme places special emphasis on:

  • securing safe drinking water, including water quality as well as handling and storage
  • eliminating open defecation through improving the functionality and use of sanitary toilets in households and schools, preschools and health centres, and the safe disposal of faecal matter
  • promoting hygiene messages such as hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet,
  • promoting menstrual hygiene management.

UNICEF’s support work in strengthening the Assam Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) at state, regional and district levels has contributed to an acceleration in rural household toilet coverage. The 2011 census showed rural sanitation coverage in Assam is 62 per cent, much higher than the national average of 33 per cent.

Policy and advocacy work in Assam includes institutionalizing behaviour change communication within government departments and training managers and frontline workers in communication skills such as inter-personal and participatory communication and counselling. UNICEF also workswith government partners, NGOs, village governmentPanchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), and research institutes on creating a policy environment that promotes the wellbeing of children, their families and communities. This effort aims to create a community demand for quality services, to provide monitoring of services, and also allow testing, replicating and scaling up new and innovative approaches and models to generate further demand at the community level.

3a. UNICEF initiatives include:

Child Survival

  • Supporting the state in rolling out the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) strategy in the six High Priority Districts  (HPDs) of Assam under the Call to Action . Assam in the only state to have developed an innovative District Gap Analysis (DGA) Dashboard which is being used as a decision-making tool by policy-makers and managers to address health system gaps.
  • Piloting the HBNC (Home Based New Born Care) voucher systemin one HPD which has been taken to scale in the remaining five high priority districts. A simple innovation to empower mothers towards their newborns’ right to essential health care through home-based visits.
  • Supporting the state Institute of Health and Family in setting up a skills laboratory, a space for health workers to develop the clinical skills required to provide quality RMNCH+A services to women and children.
  • Along with the World Health Organization, supporting the Directorate of Health Services (Family Welfare) in launching the pentavalent vaccine in Assam. UNICEF Assam developed a web-based system – “RIPAS ” – to collate and analyze the Routine Immunization and pentavalent preparedness data along with a dashboard to disseminate the analysis. This innovation has been scaled up to 12 states that were introducing the pentavalent vaccine in November and December 2014.
  • Partnered with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati to develop a mobile based real time Routine Immunization Monitoring system.
  • Partnered with the state government Directorate of Medical Education to providesupportive supervision to strengthen the capacity of government health supervisors to oversee Routine Immunizationin the state.
  • Supported the implementation of the online Special Care New Born Units(SNCUs) monitoring system across all SNCUs in Assam.
  • UNICEF Assam works closely with Assam State AIDS Control Society (SACS) to ensure improved access and provision of quality and comprehensive HIV care, treatment and support services to children infected and affected by HIV and their families. This is done through offering technical support to SACS for: System strengthening for scale-up of PPTCT and Pediatric ART services; increasing access to Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT), Paediatric AIDS and care and support services and; communication and advocacy to address stigma and discrimination issues and increase access to care and support for women and children.


Nutrition

  • Continuing to strengthen Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) through capacity building of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) training institutions and staff at delivery points.
  • Improving the quality of care at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres (NRCs) and strengthening identification and referral of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) to NRCs.
  • Providing advocacy, planning and monitoring support to implement Assam’s biannual Vitamin A and deworming scheme.
  • Building collaboration in Child Protection through adolescent girls’ collectives for to reduce anaemia in adolescent girls in 87 of Assam’s tea gardens.
  • Continuing to strengthen the Universal Salt Iodization (USI) scheme in low-performing districts and advocating for the formation of a state coalition on USI for greater collaboration and action.
  • Improving implementation of the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) scheme and developing an Emergency Response System (ERS) for it;and strengthening collaboration between the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), ICDS and Department of Education on WIFS.


Education

  • Collaborating with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Government’s Education for All programme, in Assam to pilot the CFS approach in 40 primary schools in Kamrup, a rural district covering more than 3,000 children and 120 teachers. It is expected that these 40 schools will emerge as models for RTE in Assam.
  • Issuing technical support for capacity-building of School Management Committees in the state.
  • Conducting Early Childhood Education pilots, in collaboration with the state Directorate of Social welfare (DSW) which are mandated by the ICDS and National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Developmentin 50 Anganwadi Centres each in the districts of Kamrup and Morigoan.
  • Continuing advocacy with SSA on RTE for riverine children resulted in SSA including this group in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping-cum-district plans, and in District Information System for Education (DISE).  
  • Partnering with education NGO, Pratham, on the Learning Enhancement Programme for 51 tea garden-managed schools in Dibrugarh district. An evaluation shows there is more than 10 per cent improvement in learning.Dibrugarh is a major tea-producing district in Assam, a state where tea communities constitute around 20 per cent of the population. These communities are marginalized, vulnerable and often remain outside the ambit of development, leading to poor quality of life and impacting on health and overall wellbeing.


Child Protection

  • Providing technical assistance to government and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen systems that protect children from child labour, violence and unnecessary family separation.
  • Facilitating capacity-building programmes with various key stakeholders and duty bearers under the Juvenile Justice System and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), including police Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPUs) and Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTUs), the judiciary, Child Welfare Committees (CWCs),Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs)and ICPS staff.
  • Facilitatingcollaboration between SSA and the Labour Commissioner’s office to considerNational Child Labour Project (NCLP)schools as Special Training Centres (STCs) under the RTE Act.
  • Mobilizing more than 1200 key influencers at the community level to form village- and tea garden-level child protection committees in three districts in Upper Assam and one district in Lower Assam.
  • Mobilizing, joining and building the capacity of more than 18,000 adolescent girls through 550 adolescent girls’ groups among the socially excluded tea communities across 87 tea gardens in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar districts and 35 Gram Panchayats of Dibrugarh.
  • Building capacity of key stakeholders to ensure that they have knowledge and capacity to create protective environments for adolescents.
  • Generating quality research to ensure that government and partners have access to data, evidence, information and knowledge to guide advocacy, policy, planning and programme and budgetary action on child protection.
  • Undertaking advocacy with various stakeholders to highlight some of the worst forms of child rights violations such as child sexual abuse, the impact of civil strife on children and child marriage.
  • Partnering the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) to launch the End Violence Against Children (EVAC) campaign and ensure child protection violations are duly addressed across the state.


Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Addressing water quality challenges faced by Assam through advocacy and technical support by establishing a State Level Task Force on Water Quality (SLTFWQ) in 2012, chaired by Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Assam.
  • Providing technical support to the state’sPublic Health Engineering Department (PHED) in developing knowledge management documents to address the challenge of safe drinking water.
  • Demonstratingthe Community Approach to Sanitation (CATS) in the tea garden-concentrated areas of Upper Assam. After encouraging outcomes, the government is scaling up the initiative as a part of national flagship scheme, Nirmal Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (NBA).
  • Working in close collaboration with government and NGOs to strengthen the WASH in Schools compliance mandated under the RTE Act.


Policy, Planning and Evaluation

  • Developing and sharing five analysis papers based on outcomes of 2011 census data and other survey data.
  • Developing state-specific factsheets for all North-Eastern states under the Call to Action and sharing them with the respective state governments.
  • Providing budget analysis of national flagship schemes, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), in Dibrugarh district, and helping in policy advocacy.
  • Documentingcapacity-building of women Panchayati Raj Institute (PRI) members on issues specific to children and women in partnership with State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Assam.
  • Undertaking a detailed analysis of social protection schemes under the Social Welfare Department and sharing findings with the Assam government.
  • Organizing sensitization workshops for medical personnel, NGOs and college students about the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, Majoni Scheme, a welfare scheme for ensuring increased child sex ratio and girl enrolment, and the Civil Registration System for births in four focus districts to address reduced child sex ratios.
  • Providing technical support on data analysis to Health, Education and Child Protectionteams.
  • In Dibrugarh district, organizing a training programme in planning, monitoring and evaluation for government officials, and a capacity building programme for PRIs through NGO partners.


Communication for Development

  • Providing technical support to the National Health Mission (NHM) for a state communication strategy on Routine Immunization (RI) and other RMNCH+A schemes, as well as rolling out communication campaigns based on UNICEF India’s Life Cycle approach.
  • Supporting innovative communication approaches like the ASHARadio programmewhich is broadcast across the state in partnership with All India Radio and the NHM, Assam. ASHAs are Accredited Social Health Activists, who are employed as part of the NRHM.
  • Supporting the Assam Sanitation and Hygiene Advocacy and Communication Strategy (ASHACS) by guiding Assam’s Public Health Engineering Department(PHED).
  • Putting in place special interventions designed to promote social and behaviour change amongst socially excluded and marginalized communities on issues that affect child survival, growth, development and protection in tea gardens.
  • Forming partnerships with academic institutions to build a pool of future communication professionals in Assam using the Communication for Development (C4D)curriculum. A tie-up with Tezpur University has been a positive start.
  • Partnering institutions to support communication research that will help design specific communication strategies. A “dipstick” study conducted under the RMNCH+A scheme helped understand barriers and enablers to positive behaviours. A final report will inform new strategies.
  • As part of UNICEF’s focus on adolescent groups, mobilization of Adolescent Girls’ Clubs in villages in Dibrugarh district’s former tea communities and buildingthe capacity of Self-Help Group members and mothers’ groups, using UNICEF-produced Facts for Life (FFL) videos.


Advocacy and Communications

  • UNICEF is promoting ethical  reporting amongstengaging withmedia professionals and students by teaching themsensitizing them on about the rights-based framework, and ethical guidelines on reporting for children; providing training and orientation opportunities on child communication and participatory . We are also advocating for creation of platforms for Young Reporters and adolescentgroups in the mediacommunication skills; and speaking to media houses about expanding their coverage of children’s issues and rights.
  • Partnerships with Mass Communication departments of two universities on building capacities of students on child-sensitive reporting and social media journalism.
  • Showcasing success stories from the field and highlighting these through various platforms, particularly on digital platforms.
  • Raising the profile of UNICEF work in Assam by helping programme-level colleagues publicize their initiatives.
  • Partnering civil society organizations to push the agenda for children and adolescents to take part in discussions on community-level issues affecting them, with local decision-makers.
  • Supporting various UNICEF programme teams on campaigns such as the launch of End Violence Against Children (EVAC) and commemorating state Child Protection Day and launch of the State of the World Children (SOWC) Report.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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