The UNICEF executive director, Henrietta Fore has praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for investing political time and efforts on issues like health and sanitation. This comes a few days after PM Modi received the ‘Champions of the Earth’ award from UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres in Delhi.
Fore, who was in Mumbai to attend an event jointly organized by the UNICEF and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) on Friday, said that once a person starts feeling that their community is doing better, it is then that they start looking around at other things that need improvement.
While talking to PTI Fore furthered, “If you invest a dollar in sanitation solutions, the benefit will be four dollars in terms of health cost prevention, the (reduction in) number of visits you go to a doctor and in the medicines that you don’t have to buy“.
Referring to Prime Minister’s ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan‘ Fore said, “The prime minister invested political time and effort and what it meant was people began picking up that story. They want to do it for Mahatma Gandhi, for their country and they felt pride in it“.
Stressing on the importance of sanitation she said that though sanitation does not have any economic return benefit, it indicates that the community is doing better. “It makes one think that does he have clean water and the solutions for open defecation for all animals in their village, is there a community healthcare clinic, is there enough nutrition for children; not just latrines, what about lighted pathways for all of the girls going to schools. It makes you improve your world,” said the executive director.
When questioned about UNICEF’s view on the child mortality rate (CMR) in India during the past decade, Fore said it has shown betterment. “Since the 1990s, when the numbers first began, there was a significant reduction in child mortality. Sanitation, clean India should bring numbers down further. What we don’t know yet is how much further they should bring them down. But it’s an exciting journey for India and we really are on the right path,” she said.
Fore acknowledged health, malnutrition, learning new skills, getting more women in labor force as the few challenges an emerging country like India could face in its journey towards a clean and developing nation.
She further said public policy makes a difference in a developing economy. “So if you begin to look at all these areas a country can look at, India says it wants to skill it youth and (wants to) have a digital future. That vision for future India is what UNICEF and generation unlimited is focused on,” she said.
Fore said if India gets it right for the age group of 10-24, it would mean that the country fares well in the future decades to come. “If this young population is not caught between those ages, then it is next to impossible for a country to do well. India’s outreach for these young people will be the tipping point for the developing country,” she furthered.
When asked how sustainable according to the UNICEF is the Prime Minister’s flagship programme, ‘Swacch Bharat’, she stresses that it depends on every individual, every community, every household to put a value to it. “It’s going to be on each one of us to keep those programmes going that we think to benefit the health, education and nutrition in our communities,” she said.
The flagship cleanliness drive, launched by the prime minister in 2014, aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, towns, and rural areas.
PM Modi, last month while launching ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ campaign had said the sanitation coverage in the country has increased from almost 40 percent to nearly 90 percent and asserted that the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ is playing a central role in creating a healthy India.