Children are supposed to get an education and play. Unfortunately in Pakistan, there are more than 2.5 million children living in streets who toil hard to support themselves and their families. Domestic violence caused by highly inadequate family incomes has forced around 56% of them to leave their homes, 22% are out of school and another 22% have to work to support their families. There are 28 million such helpless children across the world, most of them having been rendered homeless by conflicts. The worst part of the whole thing is that these children make up half of the world’s refugee population. The situation is depressing, outrageous and a serious moral indictment of human society. This should attract the notice of humankind and rouse its indignation, but the plight of street children continues to be ignored. As the numbers of these children swell, so does their misery.
Sadly, this is the situation when most countries have signed the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child as sufficient efforts are not being made to improve the lot of street children. In order to bring about a positive change in the lives of homeless children, it is necessary to follow the measures recommended by the United Nations. Policies should be based on these four guidelines: commitment to equality, protection of every child, ensuring access to services, and devising specialised solutions. However, successive governments in Pakistan have failed to ensure children’s rights even though the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as far back as in November 1990. The authorities seem to have developed cold feet with regard to enforcement of laws relating to child nutrition, child labour, child education, juvenile justice, child marriage, etc.
In Pakistan, a considerable number of children suffer from malnutrition. Around 33% are underweight, 44% are stunted, and 15% wasted. Overall, 50% are anaemic. Under these conditions, it is unrealistic to expect proper physical and mental development of children.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2021.