The Faceless Citizen

"What is your name?"


"Do you go to a school Hafeez?"

"Used to. There's no one at home."

"Who is there at home?"

"Mom is there. Dad isn't. My younger brother. He goes to school. I send him to school." all this said in a matter-of-fact tone, more professionally than any HR people I have heard talk.

"Till which class did you study Hafeez?"


I wanted to say something. But what could I say- "I am sorry I was lucky and you weren't"? Here was a boy of 9 years, the only earning member of his household, going from door to door, buying old newspapers and magazines at the rate of rupees 10 a kilo. My mind raced, looking for some options I could offer him. There were none. The next minute he was at the door with the bundle of newspapers, weighing them. I thought for a second to give away the bundle without taking any money for it. The next second I was ashamed of the thought. Here was a young boy, self-employed or at least trying to be, with dignity and self-respect, and I was trying to take that away from him. He handed me 100 bucks, asked, "Do you have any old clothes, metal scraps- anything?" I was looking at his face, the face of a young boy with the eyes of a man much older. I replied in the same matter-of-fact tone, "Actually I do." I remembered some clothes which were left behind by my room-mate who had moved out months before. I gave it to him. 

"The track pants are in a good condition. You could use them."

He said nothing. He took the newspapers he had bought, and the clothes and left. I watched, still waiting for my mind to come up with some option, anything that I could offer him. Blank. In another minute he was gone, leaving behind a dark void from which his tired, red, hardened eyes kept staring back at me.

This a short story(non-fiction) written by
Fellow at Teach For India

Developing HDI of India with UNICEF

The Human Developmental Index is a measure to rank countries by degree of human development. It can be thought of a measurement which is synonymous with ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life’. A country’s HDI is measured after taking various aspects into consideration. Mathematically the HDI includes Life expectancy, Education Index and Income Index. At 0.554, India currently ranks 136th among 186 countries in the world. This would put India at the bottom of the countries which have reached to ‘medium development’ status. Frankly speaking, this is very poor. UNICEF, on the other hand, is an United Nations based programme which focuses on providing humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and women in developing countries. The organization started its work in India in 1949 and is currently the largest active organization of UN in the country. UNICEF works alongside the Government of India to ensure that the deprived women and children in the country get the assistance and opportunities they require so as to lead a healthy and full life. 

It is fairly evident that Life expectancy and Education Index are directly related to the women and children of the country. Also income index is, to some extent, a function of the quality of life of women and children in the country. So it can be understood that the measures and approaches undertaken by UNICEF for the women and children invariably affect the country’s human developmental index in a positive manner. Improvements in health, increasing nutrition, safe water environment and sanitation, tackling AIDS/HIV problem, improving education are some facets of UNICEF’s activities in improving quality of life to the women and children. We will see how the country fares in these aspects and role UNICEF plays.

For Health

When it comes to health issues faced by women and children in the country, the figures are not very encouraging. India contributes to about one fourth of the total maternal deaths in the world; this figure includes death during pregnancy or within 42 days of childbirth. The main reasons behind these deaths include hemorrhage and sepsis. Malnourished and anaemic women account for 50% of these fatalities. UNICEF uses health programs such as Village Health and Nutrition Days, to reach out to these women and ensuring they get essential checkups before delivery. The women are checked for diseases pre and post delivery to ensure that they are healthy. They are also encouraged to have the much safer institutional deliveries. 

India currently has an Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 44/1000 live births. Not surprisingly UP, Bihar, MP, AP, Orissa, Gujarat, Assam and Rajasthan contribute to about 75% of these deaths. Perinatal conditions, respiratory problems and diarrhoea are the main causes for these deaths. UNICEF has teamed up with the central and state governments to promote solutions like home based care for all newborns via IMNCI program, spreading awareness about nourishing newborns and child survival. UNICEF also runs measles initiative to vaccinate all children from the disease. 

For Malnutrition

Malnutrition is a very serious issue faced in the world today. 90% of malnourished children live in Asia and Africa. In India , 43% of children are underweight and 48% are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition directly jeopardizes a child health, growth and development. Under nutrition is an invisible problem to the development and national progress for a country and is usually swept under the carpet without notice. UNICEF is fighting malnutrition along with the government by developing community based early childcare interventions, innovative communication approaches with women, etc. It also supports iron supplementation to young girls and Vitamin A to children. Awareness about the importance of using iodized salts in food is also done.

For Sanitation

It is blatantly obvious that water sanitation is important for good health. Usage of unclean water is a major reason for diarrhoea and respiratory problems. These two problems, as mentioned earlier, are major causes for infant mortality in the country. Hand washing with soap after coming in contact with infected things can help overcome these problems. UNICEF’s child Environment programme supports the government’s Total Sanitation Program to improve access to sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Program helps to provide healthy and adequate safe water to every rural household in the country. The Childs Environment program also works with Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Integrated Child Development Services, to promote hygiene water and sanitation services in schools, Anganwadis and health centers all over the country. 


The country’s main focus towards mitigating the HIV/AIDS concern among children and mothers involves 

a.       Preventing HIV transmission to infants from mothers.
b.      Transmission among couples (and then to their progeny).
c.       Preventing unintended pregnancies among women with AIDS.
d.      Appropriate protection to children and families infected with HIV.

UNICEF helps in this cause by providing strategic supplies of drugs and commodities, creating awareness and improving monitoring and reporting systems. UNICEF also helps in reducing stigma and discrimination against people infected with the disease. It ensures these people get equal access to essential health, social welfare and educational services.

For Education

The Right for Children to free and compulsory Education (RTE) act 2009 is a historical moment for the children of the country. India has shown that it has keen intentions to educate its future citizens. Even with the country striving to educate the children, almost 25% of children who enroll opt out before 5th grade. Also the quality of education is a cause for concern in the country, with the children in schools unable to even read/write properly. This is due to the poor quality of teachers in the schools. Also girls’ enrollment in schools is much less compared to boys. UNICEF provides technical support on education quality, school retention and achievement rates. Teachers are being trained to provide high standards of education for these children. Also works are being done to reduce gender disparity by spreading awareness.

We can see that UNICEF directly or indirectly plays a role in improving the country’s HDI. Though India has a long way to go, the country’s HDI has been in a slow but steady rise for the past 2 decades. There has been a improvement of 1% per year. For a country like India with such a large population and a large level of inequality (in many aspects) spread across the country, improvement of any level is a giant step ahead. But still there are a lot of problems to be resolved and standards to be improved before India could be compared with a developed country. Government initiatives and help from organizations like UNICEF is crucial to make this a reality. 


Issac Solomon



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