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Members of Parliament and Journalists Pad Up for Child Health

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Mumbai (Dec. 22, 2014): Members of Parliament and journalists on Saturday faced off at the second annual “Batting for Life” Twenty20 cricket match, dedicated to child health. With one year remaining to reach the Millennium Development Goal deadline of reducing child mortality by two-thirds, players and participants sought to draw attention to the importance of expanding access to available interventions that can protect children against largely preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea.

According to the latest estimates from UNICEF, India lost more than 13 lakh children under five years of age last year. Pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two leading causes of child death, claimed the lives of more than three lakh children.

Congratulating the winning team while praising the initiative, Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Minister of Health & Family Welfare, said, “It is a pleasure to be here today to highlight the very important issue of infant mortality (IMR) and child health. Purely going by numbers, 20% of total child mortality in the world takes place in India – this is a cause for concern. The government is very serious about this issue and is working with several organizations to reduce infant and child mortality rates. We are drafting a new strategy to ensure 100% immunization coverage. We want to bring all stakeholders together for child health. Today’s match was a good show and will sensitize people about the issue. We need to do much more to save our children. Let’s make India Swasth Bharat along with Swachh Bharat. We are working very hard to achieve a healthy India by implementing immunization programmes more rigorously.”

Other notable participants supporting child survival at the cricket match included World Champion wrestler Sushil Kumaralong with several political leaders and journalists. Union MinistersSarbananda Sonowal, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Shripad Yesso Naik attended and addressed the audience.

“To be a successful athlete, one has to endure rigorous training, discipline and competition,” said Sushil Kumar, Indian World Champion wrestler, presented the Children’s Champion and the Man of the Match Award.“I made it as far as I have today because I had a healthy start as a child. Every child deserves that chance.”

Illness caused by pneumonia and diarrhoea can also have long-term impacts on the health of children who survive, and can place a significant financial burden on families and health systems. Both diseases can be largely prevented with interventions including handwashing, breastfeeding, immunization, and appropriate care and treatment.

The International Vaccine Access Center’s 2014 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, released last month on World Pneumonia Day, found that India ranked third lowest for access to these and other interventions, compared to 15 other high-burden countries. However, the report also noted that the country was well-positioned to improve its rank. In July, the Prime Minister’s Office announced it would introduce three new childhood vaccines into the India’s National Immunization Programme, including a vaccine that protects against the leading cause of diarrhoea.

“Dedicating resources to ensure children can access the tools available is our moral obligation, and will only benefit the country in the longrun,” said the journalists’ captain,Shri Javed M. Ansari,Editor, National Affairs, Headlines Today. “Healthy children make for a healthy and productive future for India.”

At the end of the tournament, players pledged to support every child’s right to life and good health and called on others to lend their voice to the cause. Specifically, they noted the importance of access to available interventions and promised to work toward ensuring children across the country were able to benefit from existing interventions.

“I am confident that with the introduction of effective interventions and the commitment shown by the government, we can reduce the huge burden of child deaths from the country,” said MP captain Shri AnuragThakur, Lok Sabha MP from the Hamirpur constituency in Himachal Pradesh. “But success will require us all to continue working toward the goal we celebrate today, long after we leave the cricket match.”

The journalists’ team featured prominent media personalities such as Javed Ansari and Vikrant Gupta of Aaj Tak. Players on the MPs side included Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, Derek O’Brien, Manoj Tiwari and Kirti Azad, among others. The MPs team won the toss and elected to bat, putting up a total of 109 runs in the stipulated 20 overs for the Journalists team to chase.