In welcome news, India has been gradually improving its performance in preventing child marriage and related health indicators, the Global Childhood Report 2019 released by UK-based NGO Save the Children on Wednesday revealed.

According to the report, India has strived to bring down the number of married girls in the age group of 15-19 years by 51% in the last 19 years. The report said the country's average performance across a set of indicators related to child health has also improved.

The country’s score on Childhood Index is up 137 points at 769 from 632, with teenage births having declined 63% since 2000, and 75% since 1990. The index score reflects the average level of performance across a set of eight indicators related to child health, education, labour, marriage, childbirth and violence.

"This reduction has resulted in over 2 million fewer teen births in India now compared to 2000 (3.5 million v/s 1.4 million), meaning progress in India alone accounts for nearly three-quarters of the global reduction in adolescent births during this period," the report said. "Had rates remained unchanged, there would be 9 million more married girls in India today."

The report, however, highlighted that even today child marriage prevalence is higher in rural areas when compared with urban areas, with figures at 14.1% and 6.9% for rural and urban areas, respectively, for the 15-19 years age group.

"Much remains to be done to reach the most deprived children who tend to be the furthest behind and are always the hardest to reach. Development policies and programmes formulated for children must ensure that there is special focus on children belonging to the vulnerable social groups, households in poverty, and children staying in states performing low on development indicators," the report said.

A comparison of End of Childhood Index scores, that evaluates 176 countries on children's access to health care, education, nutrition and protection from 'childhood enders' like child labour and child marriage, found the overall situation for children has improved in 173 countries since 2000.

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