UNICEF has been working in Bihar since 1982 and has one of the largest Field Offices in India. Bihar is situated in the eastern part of India with Patna as its capital. Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of the state, though the majority of people speak one of the local languages considered to be dialects of Hindi.
According to Census 2011, Bihar has a population of 104 million, making it the third most populous state in India. With a population density of 1,106 per sq km, the state is also one of the most densely populated. Almost 88.7 per cent of Bihar’s population resides in rural areas.
Bihar has the highest Total Fertility Rate (TFR) among all states at 3.5 in 2012, although it has declined by about 23 per cent in the past ten years from 4.4 in 2002 Sample Registration System (SRS). The TFR for India stands at 2.4. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the only states in India with TFR above 3. Bihar has a child population of 19.13 million in the 0-6 years age group, the second highest child population among all Indian states and accounting for 12 per cent of the total child population of India in this age group. Almost 46 per cent of Bihar’s population is aged less than 18 years.
The sex ratio of Bihar improved from 919 in 2001 to 933 in 2011. The sex ratio for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the state was 925 and 958 respectively in 2011. Bihar is one of the poorest states in India with nearly 33.7 per cent of the population living in poverty. The agricultural sector is the mainstay of the state’s economy with 90 per cent of the population dependent on it, however its contribution to the state's Gross State Domestic Product is only 20 per cent. Poor infrastructure is a major bottleneck in terms of development.
Challenges of equity are huge due to a caste-ridden society, feudalistic societal structure and complex social stratification. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes constitute 15.91 per cent and 1.28 per cent of state’s population respectively. Bihar is amongst the lowest ranking states in terms of Human Development Indicators (HDI). The HDI value for Bihar has increased from 0.292 for the year 1999-2000, to 0.367 for the year 2007-08 as against the national average of 0.467.
Despite its many challenges, there has been progress in development in Bihar in recent years. The percentage share of social services in total expenditure has grown from 33.44 per cent to 35.31 per cent, almost at par with national average of 35.62 per cent. Improved governance over the past seven years has led to better health care services, greater emphasis on education, better management of social sector programmes and a reduction in crime and corruption.
Bihar has recorded a 33 per cent decline in the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the past 10 years, reducing from 66 per 1,000 live births in 2000-02 to 60 in 2006 and further to 42 in 2010-12 (SRS 2013) which brings it close to the national average of 42.
The percentage of fully immunized children has increased from 65.6 per cent to 69.9 per cent according to the Annual Health Survey (AHS) 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. Bihar recorded an increase in institutional infant delivery from 18.8 per cent in the 2002-04 District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHFS II) to 27.7 per cent in 2007-08 (DLHS-III). This has further increased to 51.9 per cent for the year 2010-11. (AHS 2011-12)
About 8 out of 10 children in Bihar complete primary education. The Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) has increased to 95 per cent in primary schools and 72 per cent in upper primary schools. Almost 90 per cent of children complete primary school, although only 67 per cent complete upper primary.
Key indicators on children and women clearly show the disparity between different sections of the population. The Under-Five Mortality Rate (U5MR) for Bihar is 70 per 1,000 live births; for males it is 67 while for females it is 73 and while for the rural areas it is 72 for urban areas it is 51 (AHS 2012-13). The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of Bihar is 219 per 100,000 live births, which is higher than the national average of 178.
Undernutrition is one of key challenges in the state. The percentage of children with birthweight less than 2.5kg is 21.9 per cent (AHS 2012-13). Anaemia prevalence is highest amongst adolescent girls at 92 per cent according to a joint survey conducted by the Government of Bihar and UNICEF in year 2006.
Bihar is one of the most vulnerable states in the spread of HIV in India due to high levels of migration, trafficking of young girls and low awareness about HIV. Key challenges in the health and nutrition sector remain the lack of adequate health care facilities and personnel. Because of the limited income of the majority of the population, their dependence on public health services is very high.
There is an urgent need to strengthen institutions like the State Institute of Health and Family Welfare and the Auxiliary Midwife and Nurse (ANM) training schools and to build the management capacity of health managers at the state, district and block levels.
According to Census 2011, 95.6 per cent households have access to drinking water from improved sources in Bihar, though only 4.4 per cent of households have access to piped water as against the national average of 43.5 per cent. Only about 23 per cent of households had access to a toilet facility at the time of Census 2011.
In Bihar, 2.9 per cent of children aged 5-14 years are engaged in work (AHS 2012-13). According to Census 2011, this figure was 3.76 per cent for Bihar compared to the national average of 3.9 per cent and accounting for 10.75 per cent of the total child labor in the age group of 5-14 years in India. Although specific data is not available, it is generally acknowledged that many children in Bihar are working as domestic servants in homes, shops and factories. Bihar is also considered to be one of main suppliers of children as cheap labour to other states in India.
Nearly half the girls (45.9 per cent) of girls marry before the legal age of 18 years in Bihar, against the national average of 22.1 per cent (DLHS, 2007-08). Kidnapping and abduction account for nearly 75 per cent of all crime against children (National Crime Records Bureau, 2013).