As India celebrates eradication of polio, Unicef today said it needs to make it complete immunisation system for children much more robust and accessible and tackle the status of women if it wants to really address the issue of mortality among children.
UNICEF said routine immunisation for children in parts of the country is still very very low and there are vast disparities even within one state.
"Routine immunisation in some of the areas is still very very low. I visited some districts in south UP where it is below 20 percent. So that 's quite serious," Louis-Georges Arsenault, Unicef representative to India, said. He added, though, that national average is "not very bad".
He also cautioned that there should be no let-up in polio immunisation programme, which he termed an "amazing accomplishment", as the danger of polio virus being transmitted into India from affected parts of the world remains.
Stressing that the risk is as high as it has never been for polio cases to be imported into India, he said polio transmission has not eradicated globally as it was planned. In fact, there are more pockets this year than they were a year ago with the crisis in the Middle East and in parts of Africa, he said.
"The threat is real. We cannot deny that. We need to be aware of it and make sure that the measures that are put in place are sustained. One way to do it is to esnure that every child continues to be immunised for polio," the UNICEF representative said.
Talking of the challenges for the complete immunisation, he said a system has to be put in across the country. It is there at some level and in some districts it is very good, he said. Some parts of the country have 99.9 percent. South India is doing much better, he said.
He said India will have to tackle upfront the status of women and also the status of adolescents, especially child marriage, as both issues have a very strong impact on a child's survival and development.
Women are still 70 percent anaemic while 50 percent women have the first child before they are 18. These are the serious issues the country has to tackle, he said.