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BACK-A-THON: Pushing back illiteracy

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By Srishti Jaswal

Back-A-Thon (1)

People across 23 cities in India walked backwards to spread awareness, and to empower, aid and protect the vulnerable children living in shelter homes in an event called ‘Back- A- Thon’ on Sunday, September 13. The event, which was more of a social gathering than a sporting affair, was hosted nationally by a non-profit organization, Make a Difference (MAD).

Back-A-Thon (3)

People participated in this atypical marathon by walking backwards in a uniform fashion. The event was held with the agenda of connecting the society to its children by sensitizing the community about the harsh conditions they faced in shelter homes.

Back-A-Thon (4)

Shelter homes across the country face multiple challenges ranging from financial crunches and staff quality to lack of emotional support for children. Along with these, the stigmatization of the vulnerability of children and shelter homes causes additional stress to this already precarious situation. Even the budget for child related schemes in the union budget 2015-2016 has dropped by a massive 29 per cent. It is with the aim of raising awareness about these issues, that MAD held ‘Back-A-Thon’ across 23 cities in India.

Back-A-Thon (5)

MAD tries to promote the importance of literacy for individuals, community and society. Literacy is a term that is understood by all without realizing that it is a complex, dynamic and lifelong intellectual process of gaining knowledge and interpreting it. Children living in shelter homes need support and care to help them in this world.

Back-A-Thon (6)

All over India, nearly 11,892 people across the nation turned up for the event and walked backwards. Coimbatore had maximum participation of 1,500 people, Delhi and Vizag both had 800 and above participants, Chandigarh had 700 and Mumbai had 489 participants walking backwards for the cause.

Back-A-Thon (7)

“Seven hundred is a huge number. It was so over whelming to see such a splendid response of the people in the wee hours of the morning. This is just self-explanatory to say that the society is all out to bring in the change. It wants to push the evils backwards. We just need to aware the community about it. Events like these help us do better. People are ready to Make a Difference”, says Rimjhim Bathla, PR fellow at Make a Difference, Chandigarh.

Back-A-Thon (8)

On being asked why people were walking backwards, Shaurya, a student of St Jones Chandigarh, replied, “We are pushing illiteracy backwards.”

Back-A-Thon (9)

‘Back-A-Thon’ attracted active participation from all sections of society; one could see students, working class, elderly people and even people from slums and shelter homes.

Back-A-Thon (10)

‘Back-A-Thon’ was able to create an impact in the minds of thousands of people throughout the nation.

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The number of people who turned up for ‘Back-a Thon’ in each city:

  • COIMBATORE : 1500
  • TRIVANDRUM : 647
  • KOLKATA : 423
  • MYSORE : 500
  • VIJAYAWADA : 650
  • BHOPAL : 452
  • LUCKNOW 330
  • AHEMDABAD : 300
  • VELLORE : 350+
  • PUNE : 370+
  • DEHRADUN: 576
  • DELHI: 800+
  • COCHIN: 200+
  • VIZAG: 800+
  • MUMBAI: 489
  • BANGALORE: 780+
  • GUNTUR: 500+
  • KOLKATA : 370
  • GWALIOR : 900+
  • CHENNAI : 250+
  • COCHIN : 200+
  • HYDRABAD : 500+
  • CHANDIGARH : 700

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Number Of Uninsured Children In The U.S. Rises to 3.9 Mn: Report

The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling.

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Abigail Gabriel, 8, hugs her mother, Erin, as a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services official talks about the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP, during a news conference, Dec. 7, 2017, in Pittsburgh. Abigail had health care under Medicaid. VOA

The number of uninsured children in the United States has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, placing it at 3.9 million in 2017, according to a report Thursday from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Nationally, the number of uninsured children increased by an estimated 276,000 in 2017, from a historic low of 4.7 percent in 2016 to 5 percent last year. Experts say about 75 percent of the newly uninsured children are clustered in states that did not expand Medicaid such as Florida, Texas and Georgia.

Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Florida and other states could take federal funding to help pay for health coverage for nearly 900,000 people, but the Republican-led Legislature in Florida voted against it. The vast majority of states have already expanded Medicaid and increased the number of residents eligible for its coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director for Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, has written the report for the last eight years and said she’s never seen the rates of uninsured children go up in all 50 states, which happened last year.

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Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country.

Better economy, low unemployment

She said that what is perhaps most concerning is that the uninsured rate among children increased despite an improving economy and low unemployment rate that allowed more children to get private coverage through their parents.

The study blamed the increases on the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to prompt an overhaul of publicly funded health care. There were major efforts to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid, and the children’s CHIP insurance funding also ran out and hung in the balance for months before Congress extended it.

“There was a lot of confusion among families as to whether these public coverage sources were available,” Alker said.

At the same time, the Trump administration slashed funding for advertising and enrollment counselors to help sign people up for these health insurance programs. The country’s enrollment decline was not just in Medicaid and CHIP, but also in Obamacare, or the federal marketplace where parents can purchase private health insurance and often receive a subsidy to help pay for it.

The report noted that many of the children who do not have health insurance are eligible for coverage but just aren’t enrolled.

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‘More of a fluctuation’

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the figures were statistically insignificant.

He did agree that there were dips in Medicaid enrollment and through the Obamacare marketplace, but noted there’s no enrollment cutoff for Medicaid, meaning families can sign up their children year-round.

“It’s really more of a fluctuation. There’s no policy driver there,” he said, saying he didn’t think marketing cuts had any impact.

In Florida, the uninsured rate went from 288,000 in 2016 to 325,000 in 2017.

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Honduran migrant Genesis Belen Mejia Flores, 7, waves an American flag at U.S. border control helicopters flying overhead near the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the country, and also has had the highest number of enrollees purchasing insurance through the Obamacare federal marketplace. However, Medicaid expansion in Florida is likely off the table for this upcoming legislative session. Incoming Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is against it. His opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, campaigned heavily on his support to expand Medicaid coverage for more residents.

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The report also expressed concern that strict immigration policies and enforcement were making many immigrant families leery of enrolling, even if their children were eligible for health coverage. “We think it’s really this national unwelcome mat regarding public coverage,” Alker said. (VOA)