A good marker of a country’s progress is the environment in which its children grow up. Prevalence of malnutrition, hunger, unhygienic surroundings and forced child labour cost a country dearly in terms of its real growth. The State of the World's Children 2011 report shows how little is being invested in the future citizens of our world. The theme of this year’s report is “Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity” and is focused on 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10-19 years standing between childhood and the adult world.
The big recommendation of the report is: Invest in adolescents as it can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender discrimination. In 2010, young people aged 15–24 formed around one quarter of the world’s working poor. In the decade between 1998 and 2009, the youth unemployment rate has increased from 9 to 10 per cent. In South Asia, the population of adolescents was 335 million in 2009. The intergenerational transmission of poverty is most apparent among adolescent girls.
Some worrying statistics about India in the State of the World’s Children Report 2011: 28 per cent of infants born from 2005-2009 had low weight at birth. 20 per cent of children under-five in the period 2003-2009 were suffering from moderate and severe wasting and 48 per cent from moderate and severe stunting (as per WHO standards). Only 51 per cent of households were consuming iodized salt in the period 2003-2009. And only 66 per cent of under-five children had 2 doses of vitamin A supplement.
In the world’s two most populous countries, the marriageable age for men is higher than that for women – 22 for men and 20 for women in China, and 21 for men and 18 for women in India. In India, 56 percent of adolescent girls (age group 15-19 years) suffer from anaemia and 47 percent of adolescent girls in the same age group are underweight.
The report quotes a 2003 study by the World Health Organization, which estimates that 14 per cent of all unsafe abortions that take place in the developing world – amounting to 2.5 million that year – involve adolescents under age of 20 years. In India, 1 percent of females and 63 percent males aged 15-19 years had higher-risk sex with a non-marital, non-cohabitating partner in the last 12 months.
Globally, AIDS is estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15–19, and the sixth leading cause among 10–14-year-olds. Many new HIV cases worldwide involve young people aged 15–24.
On sexual and reproductive health the report says that girls are more likely to have engaged in early sex in adolescence but also less likely to use contraception. For girls, child marriage is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. In Maharashtra, girls’ participation in a life-skills education course has been demonstrated to delay their marriage by a year.
The report says that the explosive growth of ICT has brought challenges to young people’s privacy, freedom of expression and physical and psychological well-being. In India, 87 million – 31 per cent of youth - claim to be users of mobile phones and instant messaging services. Besides, social networking is fast becoming a fad among adolescents. Orkut, Google’s social network site, was voted MTV India’s Youth Icon of 2007. In response, Facebook made its social network site available in Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam,Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, to target Indian youth who are not fluent in English.
The report presents some disturbing trends among the adolescent population. 81,000 Brazilian adolescents, 15–19 years old, were murdered between 1998 and 2008. Global net attendance for secondary school is roughly one third lower than for primary school. Worldwide, one third of all new HIV cases involve young people aged 15–24. In the developing world, excluding China, 1 in every 3 girls gets married before the age of 18. In a few countries, almost 30 per cent of girls under 15 are also married. In the period 2000–2009, around 47 per cent of Indian women aged 20–24 were married by the age 18. Girls who marry early are most at risk of being caught up in the negative cycle of premature childbearing, high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity and high levels of child malnutrition. The report mentions that educated girls are more aware of their reproductive rights and health and they have better knowledge of HIV/ AIDS.
Some of the India-specific points observed by the State of the World's Children 2011 report are as follows:
• Under-five mortality rate (i.e. probability of dying between birth and exactly 5 years of age, expressed per 1,000 live births) fell sharply from 117 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 66 in 2009. However, India ranks 48th among other countries in the Under-five mortality rate category.
• Neonatal mortality rate (i.e. probability of dying during the first 28 completed days of life, expressed per 1,000 live births) in 2009 was 34 for India.
• Infant mortality rate under 1 year of age, (expressed per 1,000 live births) declined from 84 in 1990 to 50 in 2009.
• Life expectancy at birth in India stood at 64 years in 2009.
• Total fertility rate (i.e. number of children who would be born per woman if she lived to the end of her childbearing years and bore children at each age in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates) in India stood at 2.7 in 2009.
• Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources in 2008 was 88 (96 percent in urban and 84 percent in rural areas).
• Percentage of population using improved sanitation facilities in 2008 was 31 (54 in urban and 21 in rural areas).
• HIV prevalence among young people (i.e. percentage of young men and women living with HIV) aged 15-24 as of 2009 was 0.1.
• 27 percent of girls aged 15-19 are currently married or in union during 2000-2009 and 22 percent aged 20-24 gave birth before age 18.
• 57 percent male and 53 percent female adolescents aged 15-19 think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances during 2002-2009.
• 35 percent male and 19 female adolescents aged 15-19 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV during 2005-2009.
• Percentage of women 15–49 years old who consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of the specified reasons during 2002-2009 was 54.
• Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate during 2004-2008 among men was 88 and women was 74.
• Number of phones and Internet users per 100 persons in 2008 were 29 and 4, respectively.
• Annual population growth rate declined from 2.2 percent during 1970-1990 to 1.9 percent during 1990-2000 and further to 1.7 percent during 2000-2009.
• 42 percent of Indian population lives below international poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day during 1994-2008.
• Percentage of Central Government expenditure (during the period 1998-2008) allocated to health, education and defence were 2, 5 and 12 respectively.
• Net primary school enrolment ratio during 2005-2009 for male was 91 and female was 88. Net attendance ratio at secondary education (i.e. number of children attending secondary or tertiary school who are of official secondary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official secondary school age.) for male was 59 and female 49.
• Percentage of children 5–14 years old involved in child labour at the moment of the survey during 2000-2009 was 12.
State of the World's Children 2011,
Madhya Pradesh CM launches World’s Children report, 26 February, 2011, http://www.indiablooms.com/NewsDetailsPage/newsDetails260211e.php
TIMOR-LESTE: Chronic malnutrition among world's highest, 25 february, 2011, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=92039
Gender disparities: Empowering adolescent girls for social change, UNICEF, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_57719.html