UNICEF chief expresses concern over `unbalanced sex ratio'

NEW DELHI SEPT. 6. Expressing concern over India's `unbalanced sex ratio', the UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, today hoped that the Government's initiatives would help reverse the situation. The mere passage of legislation and banning the use of pre-diagnostic technique for sex determination alone cannot help, she said.

Addressing a press conference at the end of her three-day visit, Ms. Bellamy said that India had to energise itself in the implementation of the polio immunisation programme which received a setback with the detection of a few polio cases last year. "However, this year's figures have shown improvement, particularly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh," Ms. Bellamy said, acknowledging India's progress and bold measures taken to create a favourable environment for children. The process was as important as the outcome hence the focus on strategies needs to be accelerated with greater stress on intersectoral collaboration.

Stressing on the need to educate girls, Ms. Bellamy said that only education could put young women on a path to economic and social empowerment and help them make the most of their abilities."Investing in girls education also makes simple economic sense. No country has ever emerged from poverty without giving priority to education,'' she said.

India as a nation with enormous potential could lead the way with an accelerated strategy for girl's education and thus clear the last remaining obstacle to universal elementary education.

"We look to India for leadership in going the extra mile for girls education. By dint of its political commitment, positive policies and concrete achievements, India has shown that it possesses the requisite will to reach the `Education for All' goal,'' she said.

Touching upon the issue of transmission of HIV among children, Ms. Bellamy praised the initiatives taken up by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) by pushing the AIDS control programmes in the States, but added that more women needed to be given treatment than the mere 42 per cent at present.Saving the lives of HIV-infected women was important as their children had the potential of becoming orphans, she said.Recognising that child labour in India was a complex problem, Ms. Bellamy said the National Child Labour Projects (NCLP) being run in child labour endemic areas of the country had shown positive results in the southern States.

Providing opportunity to children to attend schools, by involving the women's self-help groups and non-governmental organisations, was one way of overcoming the issue while the second was by creating awareness.

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