New Delhi, January 2021.

Highlighting that reducing the number of anaemic children and women is one of the key elements for India’s development, hon’ble Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey launched ‘Shapath1000Days’, a nearly 3-year-long multi-stakeholder undertaking to improve child and maternal health and substantially reduce prevalence of anaemia in India. He was joined by hon’ble Minister of State for Higher Education of Uttar Pradesh Smt Neelima Katiyar at the virtual launch held on the occasion of the National Girl Child Day.

The multisectoral collective is founded under the aegis of the Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council, a non-profit social impact institution promoting health for all, bringing together multiple stakeholders and contributors towards women and child health and nutrition such as Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Uttar Pradesh-based WWW Foundation for Women Health, Dettol Banega Swasth India and India Nutrition Program projects of Reckitt Benckiser, Bharat Serums & Vaccines Limited and Karnataka-based Asian Research and Training Institute for Skill Transfer (ARTIST).

“Till 1000 days from today, if we can reach even 1 family a day and enlighten them about the importance of a girl’s education and health and make them do the same by reaching more families, Shapath has the potential to become a mass campaign – people’s awareness and participation will be very important. It will promote India’s aim for Ayushman Bharat. We need to further Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao if we want India to become rich, powerful, and healthy and eradicate female foeticide,” said hon’ble union minister of state for health and family welfare, Shri Ashwini Kumar.

“The Uttar Pradesh government has worked towards holistic development of women under its ‘Mission Shakti’ for a secure present and a future. All government departments take it on high priority and have contributed to it to bring women forward. We have reserved 50% of work for women under MNREGA. We have done a lot, but a lot of work has to be done, especially when it comes to making young girls and women aware of their health,” said Smt Neelima Katiyar, hon’ble Minister of State for Higher Education of Uttar Pradesh.

The collective will work to reinforce the government’s commitment of an ‘anaemia-mukt Bharat’ by bringing down prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) from NFHS(4)-level of 58% to 40% in lactating women, from 50% to 32% in pregnant women, and from 54% to 36% in adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years-old by 2022. The target set for adolescent boys between 15 and 19 years-old is 11% from current 29% and to 40% from 58% in children between 6 to 59 months.

“National Girl Child Day is dedicated to protecting, promoting and empowering our girls, who despite their pivotal role in family, society and the entire human civilization, face discrimination in almost every aspect of life. They grow up as malnourished adults, become mothers without being ready for it, and give birth to children who are more likely to get an infection. As a nation we have shown astonishing resolve and resourcefulness in combating or controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, it is painful to note that we have not been able change the fate of our girls, women and children even after 71 years of being a modern, sovereign, republic, when it comes to their health,” said Mr. Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council.

The virtual launch program was attended by Dr Meera Agnihotri, Founding President, WWW Foundation and Chair of Steering Committee for Shapath, Dr Alpesh Gandhi, President, FOGSI, Mr Ravi Bhatnagar, Director, External Affairs and Partnerships (AMESA), Reckitt Benckiser, Mr. Sanjiv Navangul, MD & CEO of Bharat Serums and Vaccines Limited, Dr. Hema Diwakar, CEO of ARTIST among others representing government of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and NITI Aayog.

“In our male-oriented society, a girl is discriminated against at various levels, so much so that many of them are not even allowed to be born. Even if they are born, there is a vast gap between the standard of life of a boy and a girl. Unless we take care of such gaps immediately, gender disparity will stymie India’s development,” said Dr Meera Agnihotri, Founding President, WWW Foundation and Chair of the Steering Committee for Shapath 1000 days Mission.

“Girls don’t need empowerment or support, they are empowered already; they need equal opportunities to achieve their full potential. This correction in framing the issue is important, women have a role to play in realising the standards we set for our economy. The government has brought in a host of programs for nutrition and maternal health but it is important that we have a whole-of-society-approach and health workers are motivated to carry them out. Due to pandemic, we might see worsening of a lot of gender-based indicators, so this pledge comes at a very opportune moment,” said Smt Urvashi PrasadSenior Public Policy Specialist, NITI Aayog.

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