About West Bengal

The eastern state of West Bengal is the nation's fourth most populous, with more than 91 million inhabitants. The capital and largest city of the state is Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the seventh largest populous city in India. (Census of India, 2011)
 
West Bengal’s most important industrial belt runs along the Hoogly River in north and south of Kolkata. The other significant industrial regions include the ones along the Damodar River, steel plants at Durgapur and Burnpur, a locomotive plant at Chittaranjan and Haldia, the terminus of an oil pipeline from the state of Assam and the site of a large oil refinery, also has a petrochemical industry. 
 
Other important manufacturing sectors include ships, automobiles, chemicals and fertilizers, wagons, electronics, paper and cotton textiles. The state also has a large number of small scale and cottage industries. 
 
West Bengal’s forest area is 11,879 sq km which is almost 13.4 per cent of its total geographical area.( http://www.westbengalforest.gov.in). Part of the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, is located in southern West Bengal. 
 
West Bengal has seven per cent of India’s total child population and children represent 35 per cent of the state’s total population. The state is home to 32 million children, of whom 73 per cent, or 23 million, live in rural areas and 27 per cent, or 8.7 million, live in urban areas. 
 
West Bengal has managed to keep its rates of infant, neonatal and maternal mortality and mortality of children aged less than five years much below the national average, but there are regional disparities and a huge urban-rural divide. Moreover, while the state’s neonatal mortality is lower than the national average, it still remains to be a key challenge to achieving the MDG target for child deaths. 
 
The coverage of routine immunization in West Bengal is 79.5 per cent (DLHS-4, 2012-13). UNICEF is working closely with the Government to improve the situation. 
 
Challenges
Need to address high levels of child undernutrition and anaemia in all age groups in time bound and mission mode. This would also need multi sectoral approach throughout the life cycle from adolescent to pregnancy to early childhood focussing on 1000 days.

Urban malnutrition is a growing area of concern as the growth of urban poor has resulted in unplanned development of cities, poor health and hygiene infrastructure and lack of development of services.
 
Need for improving quality of education through teachers’ training, filling vacancies and effective functioning of School Management Committees (SMCs), strengthening school-community interactions and using schools as platforms for community development.
 
Need to strengthen the Village Child Protection Committees and promote greater involvement of the PRIs in combating crimes against children, including child abuse and trafficking.
 
Delays in repatriation of victims of cross-border trafficking; the situation of children in homes and the need to accelerate integrations of these children with their families and communities.
 
Need for influencing social norms on open defecation for achieving Nirmal Gram Panchayats and Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2017 and meeting demands for arsenic and fluoride-free safe drinking water and protection against bacteriological contamination across districts. Quality assurance of water testing labs in West Bengal is also a challenge.
 
Opportunities and Progress
 
Kanyashree Prakalpa, a conditional cash transfer scheme for the promotion of girl’s education and prevention of child marriages was launched by the Government of West Bengal with technical assistance from UNICEF, in October 2013. Kanyashree Prakalpa is a child sensitive social protection scheme aimed at ensuring that that girls continue education from upper primary up to higher secondary levels and are not married off before the legal age of 18 years.

It also promotes girls getting into high education after the completion of school or pursue skill development.

The scheme includes an annual scholarship of Rs.500 for girls between the ages of 13-18 years and a one-time grant of Rs. 25,000 when the girl completes 18 years of age and is enrolled in some form of education. Kanyashree Prakalpa is universally implemented across all districts of West Bengal. The Government is committed to extend its reach to SCs/STs/Muslims and geographically and other marginalized communities such as those living in LWE areas and in urban slums.

UNICEF has supported the Government in the preparation of the scheme Guidelines, its implementation and monitoring framework, its communication strategy, the scheme MIS and has supported an all-district baseline survey on key indicators. It is also technically facilitating regular assessments of the scheme to strengthen its governance, implementation and coverage.  
 
Design and roll-out of RMNCH+A strategy focusing on evidence-based, multi-sectoral planning, quality and equity aligned with the life cycle approach across the Call To Action high priority districts have renewed commitment to promote increased coverage of and greater demand for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) issues.

The RMNCH+A strategy also ensure strengthened monitoring and joint review mechanisms both at state and district levels leading to improvement of access and quality of services.  
 
The Confederation of Indian Industry-UNICEF CSR Hub established and first PPP project rolled out on strengthening Anganwadi Centres in Metiaburuz with the Department for Women and Child Development (DWCD) and six corporate houses. 
 
The State Policy on Open Defecation Free West Bengal developed and adopted by the West Bengal government brings about renewed focus on areas of improvement. UNICEF has developed cost-effective arsenic technology and communication approaches to mitigate arsenic risks to support the Government initiatives.

The Nirmal Vidyalaya Abhiyan, an Indian government Child-Friendly Schools initiative aimed at improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) standards, has reached out to 80,000 schools till 2013 and has ensured that WASH in Schools is mainstreamed in primary school education.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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