Times of India reported that, in a bid to check high rates of child mortality, the Centre has decided to rope in private sector and corporate houses. Using corporate social responsibility as a tool to save children, the government is looking forward to commitment from the private sector for use of technology and innovations to boost interventions in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and save preventable deaths.
“Corporate partnerships are an approach to contribute to solve child survival issues by using their reach, unique skills and expertise, resources, energy and influence to undertake coordinated and concerted efforts,” said Keshav Desiraju, secretary, ministry of health and family welfare. The ministry officials released a document in this regard at a recent national summit on child survival and development. The Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs has pledged its support for providing a platform for the cause. Talking to TOI, director of the institute, Bhaskar Chatterjee said, “There is immense potential in the private sector. It can reach out to people living in difficult areas. Till now, this potential was not tapped. But the start will make a difference.”
Dr Sharad, who heads UNICEF’s field office in Uganda, cited the example of how corporate sector helped improve the rate of birth registrations in his country. “We collaborated with a telecom company which used its mobile money transfer technology to aid registration of births. In a span of several months we saw rate of birth registration picking up at an unbelievable speed. A cell phone based monitoring system has helped us achieve almost real time updates,” he said.
The IICA and Unicef have also agreed for on developing a web based platform to enable corporate companies to access and download a “do it yourself’ toolkit of CSR projects linked to child survival and developmental activities. This tool kit will include not only specific projects such as model child friendly ‘anganwadi’ centre but also their unit costs and specific guidelines for implementation. It will also upload data and information on their child survival and developmental projects. After verification, the data will be consolidated to show the global impact of the private sector engagement. The alliance would also participate in online forums and groups to foster convergence, cross-sectoral learning and knowledge exchange. The system would be ready by the end of 2013.
On what kind of collaboration was the ministry looking for from the corporate sector, an officer said, “four key strategic areas where corporate sector can prove beneficial include corporate social responsibility wherein companies can pledge in their resources, technology and development where they leverage skills and expertise in innovation, create shared values through their market based approaches and create a movement through a state holder engagement.”.
In the particular area of child survival, the least they can do is spread key messages – something that they did in case of polio immunization. Citing an example, another officer in the ministry said, “Britannia’s initiative against iron deficiency anaemia is an example. They came up with iron fortified biscuits that are being used in mid day meal programmes in several districts. Then Novartis and Abbot adapted their sales force to reach low income populations in remote areas of India.”
How can the corporate sector help?
Schedule 7 of the Companies Bill 2012 suggests activities which can be taken up under CSR. These are:
Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty
Promoting education, gender equality and empowering women
Reducing child mortality and improving maternal health
Combating HIV, AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.
Ensuring environmental sustainability
Imparting employable vocational skills
Social business projects
Contribution to prime minister’s national relief fund or any other fund set up by the central government or state governments for socio-economic development and relief and funds for welfare of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward castes, minorities and women.
Times of India, 15 Feb 2013.