Bhubaneswar: During a three-day visit to the Indian state of Odisha, beginning March 15th, the UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, Ms Karin Hulshof called on the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Secretary, Mr. Aditya Prasad Padhi and other senior Government officials.

During the meeting with the Chief Minister, Ms Hulshof appreciated the progress made by the State Government in reducing stunting of under-five-year old children, its focus on eliminating Open Defecation and the visionary reforms initiated in the field of teacher education.

Ms Hulshof said, “This trip showed me how Odisha has been advancing steadily for children despite many challenges. It was a chance to see a wide range of partners and stakeholders – politicians, bureaucrats, local elected leaders, academics, civil society leaders, artists, frontline workers, communities and children – all putting in their genuine effort towards making the state better place for their children. “

Ms Hulshof visited Kandigaon village in Ganjam district, where community led efforts are on the verge of making the village Open-Defecation free. In A. Totapaplli village, she visited an Anganwadi center, where an UNICEF supported innovative teaching material called “Nua Arunima” is providing structured early childhood education. With a focus on equity, the material has been translated into 10 tribal languages to ensure that young learners from the surrounding tribal communities, easily access these school readiness programmes. Ms Hulshof interacted with adolescent girls who come to the center every week, to receive Iron and Folic Acid and deworming tablets along with basic life-skills.

The Odisha government has adopted several community-driven approaches and policies towards improving sanitation, nutrition and education to tackle stunted growth among children and drive change at the grassroot level. Ms Hulshof met several Gram Panchayat representatives who discussed how the ‘Village Health and Nutrition Days’ were being leveraged to encourage routine immunization and share key messages that are critical to children’s well-being.

Ms Hulshof was accompanied by Mr Louis-Georges Arsenault, Representative, UNICEF India.