Mumbai: Expressing serious concern over infant mortality rate in India, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said on Wednesday that her government was committed to improving the heath profile of women and children in the country.
Launching the UPA government’s new initiative of Child Health Screening and Early Intervention Service in the tribal area of Palghar in Thane district of Maharashtra, Gandhi called for effective implementation of child and women welfare schemes in the country.
Referring to the prevalence of high level of malnutrition among children, Gandhi said that the UPA government had taken several steps to address this mammoth challenge. “The Government’s ambitious food security programme would go a long way in addressing nutritional needs of poor children,” she said.
Called the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, the new child health Screening and early intervention service programme that she launched aims at early detection and management of ‘4Ds’ prevalent in children. These are Defects at birth, Diseases in children, Deficiency conditions and Developmental delays including Disabilities. The programme which assures a package of health services, would eventually benefit about 270 million children across the country.
In her address at the child health care programme launch function, Gandhi said: “The UPA Government is committed to achieve the objective of “Health for All” through accessible, affordable and equitable healthcare services. Children are the future of the nation and hence the government has accorded highest priority to strengthen the child health care system in the country”.
Gandhi hoped that all State Governments would march in step with the Central Government and take proactive steps to roll out the screening and intervention services at the earliest.
“Under the Government’s National Rural Health Mission, several new initiatives have been taken, particularly to improve maternal and child health. Over Rs90,000 crore have been released to the states for strengthening health systems,” she said.
She pointed that the investments in the sector had yielded results in the form of reduction in maternal and infant mortality.
Gandhi said that women empowerment was directly linked to child health and welfare “Janani Suraksha Yojana – a scheme for promoting institutional deliveries and the newly launched Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana, have been contributing to mother and child welfare,” she added.
“India accounted for more than half of the global burden of polio in 2009. With intensive effort and resolute political will, India has remained polio free for more than two years now” she said,as she recalled the initiative launched by her late husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
UPA Chairperson said “under the NRHM a solid health care infrastructure has been built in the country; there are about 9 lakh ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) volunteers inducted into service. Over 120 million children are covered under the Mid Day Meal programme.”
She said that in the last two years, 270 nursing schools had been approved to be set up in far-flung and remote areas. Gandhi called upon large number scheduled caste and scheduled tribe girls to get trained in these nursing schools and adopt the noble profession as their career.
In his address, federal Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad outlined various health care initiatives taken by his ministry and thanked the UPA Chairperson for putting the health issue high on the national agenda.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that there was an empirical evidence to suggest that well implemented health intervention programmes had yielded positive results. “A Unicef Survey has shown that effective implementation of the Maharashtra Government’s Rajmata Jijau Kuposhan Mukti Gram Abhiyan has actually reduced the incidence of malnutrition in the tribal blocks of Jawhar – Mokhada and Melghat regions,” he said.
As part of the Rashtriya Bal Swaasthya Karyakram, Gandhi also launched the Aadhar enabled micro-Any Time Money (ATM) based payment programme for the ASHA volunteers. ICICI Bank has been roped in to provide the micro-ATM service, which is expected to widen financial inclusion.
Maharashtra Health Minister Suresh Shetty, Minister of State for Health Fauzia Khan, Guardian Minister and MP Ganesh Naik, Palghar MP Baliram Jadhav were among those present at the Palghar launch function.