Experts to govt: give children under six a better deal

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New Delhi, Sep 23 (UNI) Public health experts are pushing the government to correct its policies and programmes directed at 'children under six' not only to protect their rights but also to ensure that the future generations are healthy.

They argue that only about one per cent of the Union Budget is spent on children under six years of age (described as 'children under six') and deplore the fact that their problems receive scant attention in the newspapers, political debates and Parliament.

"Children under six have been grossly neglected for a long time in Indian Planning, and the country is paying a price for this. The Eleventh Plan presents an opportunity to correct this bias and give these children their due. However, this cannot be done through marginal expansion or superfical reform of existing child development programmes. It requires bold initiatives, new strategies and a massive increase in financial allocations for children under six", says Dr Arun Gupta, National Co-ordinator of Breastfeeding Network of India(BPNI).

In this connection, the public health experts have met a number of key functionaries in the government, including Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Plan Panel Member Sayeeda Hameed.

Dr Hameed was earlier the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women and in the Planning Commission looks after social sector development. The Commission is engaged in working out a comprehensive strategy for restructuring the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

On September 14, a delegation of leading experts in the field of public health met Dr Ahluwalia and on a later date Dr Hameed.

They included Jean Dreze, a well known economist who has co-authored several books with Nobel laurete Amartya Sen, Dr Vanadana Prasad, a paediatrician working with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Ms Devika Singh, a social worker involved in the mobile creches movement and Mr Sundar Raman, Country Director of National Health Research Centre, New Delhi.

Dr Gupta said one million babies can be saved every year all over the globe with just one action -- begin breastfeeding within one hour of birth. It was thus important to encourage all communities to make this a key indicator of progress on child health, nutrition and development. What is true for the world is also relevant for India.

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