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July 29, 2015

Pakistan ‘has failed to achieve any MDG related to children’


July 29, 2015

Participants of a workshop organised to review ‘Pakistan’s Performance on Child Rights Convention’s (CRC) Implementation’ expressed concern over the lack of resources and political will to implement initiatives linked to child protection and welfare in the country.
Organised by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the participants including activists and experts were briefed on the current situation of legal rights, education, health, alternative care and vulnerabilities and exploitation of children in the country. They held in-depth discussion on the issues and pointed out gaps and challenges besides recommending solutions.
They highlighted the fact that no concrete action plans have been developed to ensure implementation of international treaties and commitments at the national and provincial levels. They said that Pakistan has failed to achieve any Millennium Development Goal (MDG) related to children.
Around 60.8 per cent of children aged 3-5 years in rural areas and 42.2 per cent in urban areas are out of school whereas 2.7 million children (secondary school age) are out of school. 15.9 per cent of the total population of adolescents are engaged in some form of child labour, 51.2 million adult illiterates (63 per cent of these women) and student-teacher ratio at the national level stands at 47:1 which should be 25:1 according to international standards.
Talking about the child protection mechanism, they pointed out that the existing national and provincial child protection centres and units set up under the various provincial acts are insufficient to reach out to and meet all needs of the children. There are no government run centres and facilities for children in Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Fata and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, while the situation in Sindh too appears bleak.
The centres are often dependent on funds from international donors and support of local organisations and lack long term sustainability

mechanisms. For example, out of the 12 CPUs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , 11 are donor funded.
In her briefing on child health, Fatima Nasir Raja from Sparc said that though Pakistan is regarded as one of the major food producing countries, fifth largest producer of milk, sixth largest producer of apricots, over the past decade there has been an overall increase in the prevalence of stunted children in the urban and rural areas of Pakistan.
She said that a provincial breakdown reveals that as of 2014, stunting rates in Punjab are 39.8 per cent with 32.4 per cent in urban and 42.9 in rural areas of the province while Sindh has the highest stunting rate ; 56.7 per cent with an alarming 63.3 per cent in rural and 46.1 per cent in urban areas.
She said that in Pakistan, the Under Five Mortality Rate (U5MR) has seen a steady decline over the last decade, yet the country is far from reaching its assigned target of 52 U5MR according to the MDG’s of 2015. The incidences of child mortality have been heavily influenced by the debilitating status of health in rural. Lack of infrastructure, development and absence of a concrete disaster management plan has exacerbated the situation whereby diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and cholera have wreaked havoc on the health of children across Pakistan.
In Pakistan, according to the Pneumonia Fact Sheet 2014, 71,000 children die of pneumonia every year. Immunisations surveys reveal that 1 in every 5 children in the country is not immunized whilst in rural areas 2 out of every 3 children are not properly immunized24.
In her briefing on Vulnerabilities and Exploitation, activist and psychologist Zehra Kamal said that as compared to boys, girls continue to face more child rights violations in the form of honour killings, harmful traditional practices including child marriages, sexual abuse and neglect.
She pointed out discrimination education system against minorities and said that the textbooks made in 2012 for the Public schools of the Punjab province, continue to have hate material despite the improved curriculum of 2006/2009. There were fifteen lines of hate material in the Urdu language and Pakistan studies books for grades seven to ten in 2009, which later increased to 86 lines.
She said that the 5th periodic report submitted by the Government of Pakistan on CRC does not provide specific information about the measures and programmes it has undertaken to address discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
Talking about children with disability and street children, she said that no exact figures are available, which in itself creates hurdles in effective programming and interventions for these children. In the absence of a legal framework, people living with disabilities continue to face stigma, discrimination and accessibility issues in all walks of life including education, social protection and health care.
“A few seminars and awareness sessions in the major cities of Pakistan are insufficient to change the traditional charity based welfare approach and the prevalent negative mind-set towards children with disabilities,” she opined.
She said that corporal punishment is also routinely used as a disciplining strategy in homes, supported by both cultural values and the law. Pakistan is considered to have the world’s third largest children’s workforce, with children being involved in the most dangerous forms of labour and exploitation.
About child sexual abuse, she said according to the latest statistics collected by Sahil, in 2013 alone, over 3,000 cases of child abuse were reported. Children, mostly girls, but also boys between the ages of 11 and 15 years, in both urban and rural areas, were most vulnerable. According to Zia Awan, renowned Supreme Court lawyer, child rights activist, and founder of Madadgar, 767 children were raped and killed in Pakistan in 2014.
“Children are also sexually exploited through their involvement in prostitution and pornography, and as victims of cybercrime. Child molestation is not adequately defined by the law and incest remains invisible, leading to significant legal difficulties in recognising, investigating, proving and convicting in such cases,” she said.

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