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Falling immunisation rates in states a worrying factor: experts

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Sep 14: Falling immunisation rates has emerged as a worrying factor in many states as only 47 per cent of the children in the age group of 12 to 35 months in 43 districts surveyed received full immunisation coverage, say experts.

While districts such as Tumkur in Karnataka topped the list with 93.4 per cent coverage, the districts of Gaya (Bihar) and Lalitpur (UP) dragged down the achievement with a dire 5 per cent coverage followed by Dholpur (Rajasthan) and Sitapur (UP) with 6.7 per cent and 6.8 per cent respectively.

Within Karnataka itself, Raichur could immunise only 23 per cent of its children indicating wide disparities within districts too.

These findings are borne out by a Government of India-UNICEF survey covering 2,580 villages on sample basis from 43 districts of 14 states, which are focal districts of the Government of India-UNICEF Country Programme of Cooperation Cycle of 2003-2007, released here recently.

The data for the survey conducted in predominantly rural areas was collected between March and May 2005.

Regarding the percentage of children in age group of 12 to 35 months who had received immunisation in the 43 districts, it stood at 47 at the all-India level, with 71.2 per cent receiving BCG, 58.1 per cent getting DPT 3 vaccine and 63.9 per cent Polio 3 immunisation.

Dr N C Saxena, Member, National Advisory Council and ex-Secretary Planning Commission, pointed to falling immunisation rates in many states as corroborated by a mid-term review undertaken by the Planning Commission despite the impressive overall growth rates charted by the economy.

While there had been considerable improvement in the areas of water availability and education, on the fronts of sanitation and child protection much more needed to be done, he opined.

In the matter of birth registrations for children less than a year old, the contrast was again stark.

Eleven districts showed sub-10 percentage levels with Muzaffarpur and Gaya in Bihar reporting 1.1 and 1.2 percentage birth registration. Ranged on the other side were Chadrapur (96.7 per cent) and Nandurbar (97 per cent) in Maharashtra and -- surprisingly -- Rajnandgaon in Bihar having 96.5 per cent.

Polarities between districts and states showed up in the wellbeing of children as pointers to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices in most of the districts surveyed.

UNICEF Chief of Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Robert Jenkins noted that interestingly, it was found that districts doing well on health parameters were doing well in education.

Conversely, the multiplier effect worked if one was living in a semi-pucca house, belonged to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe in a district perceived as backward with poor health and education indices, he felt.

The UN agency was studying whether panchayats and block officials could be roped in to help in reaching development goals, UNICEF Deputy Director, Programmes Eimar Barr said, adding that the agency was working intensively in 16 districts through an integrated district approach by engaging the community in participatory planning and empowering them in preparing and monitoring plans at their level.

He said the results would be discussed in the respective districts through workshops to effect improvement in the lives of children and women in these areas.


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