With a population of more than 200 million people, Uttar Pradesh (UP) is India’s most populous state, roughly equal in size to Brazil. It is best recognized for the landmark monument, Taj Mahal, and the historic Hindu city of Varanasi.
A vibrant industrial and agricultural region, UP has struggled with one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in India. While the state has made significant gains on several key indicators over the past decade, according to the 2011 census, the child sex ratio has deteriorated and the number of children forced into work has increased.
UNICEF is working closely with the Government of UP to bring in positive change, including strengthening the state’s vast health care network. There is a large network of groups and individuals to partner with in this aim, such as civil society and faith based organizations, legislators, academicians and media houses. UNICEF in UP has also played a crucial role in one of the world’s largest public health campaigns, mobilizing thousands of people to help eradicate polio from the state.
Although one-third of the state’s population lives below the poverty line and the state has the highest number of children who leave school to work, education programmes introduced by UNICEF and its partners are ensuring more children stay out of labour and go to school.
Life can be uncertain and, in many cases, cut short for children in UP. Each year, about 380,000 of the state’s children die before the age of five years, falling victim to malnutrition, diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses. UP also has the largest population of socially excluded communities – scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other so-called "backward castes" – and several indicators of health, nutrition and education are amongst the worst in India.