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May 6, 2021

Killed by poverty

 
May 6, 2021

That poverty has increased in Pakistan is no more news. What is news though is when children are killed by their own parents, mainly due to poverty-induced desperation. In a recent case, a man is reported to have thrown his four children into a canal at Sheikhupura Road. According to reports, he was unable to buy clothes for his children to wear on Eid, so he took the children to the nearby canal and threw them into the running water. He has confessed his crime to the police. The children were between just one and seven years of age – three girls and one boy. In the first week of February, a woman in Chakwal drowned her three children and then took her own life for not being able to provide meals for her children. The children were between the ages of one and five. Then there are reports of people suffering under depression and committing suicide due to acute economic hardships.

What does one do in a society where a parent has to choose between which of their children to feed – or kill? It is one of the primary responsibilities of any state to prioritize the provision of livelihood to all people especially those that belong to the lowest economic strata. Providing livelihood does not mean just opening up new free-food centres; it means a decent and respectable living with at least food, clothing and shelter. Then there are health and education needs that people must get without having to pay exorbitant fees to hospitals and schools. A majority of government hospitals lack lifesaving drugs, free testing facilities, and even proper hospitalization and surgery facilities. And even mentioning mental health care seems a stretch, even though the country needs it terribly urgently.

Nearly every traffic signal and shopping area presents a dismal picture with countless destitute children and adult men and women begging for meagre amounts; some of these children are as young as just four or five years old. It is the same in other big cities and small towns where you can see throngs of people lining up for free food, or looking for some basic labour work. The situation is alarming with the surging inflation and reduced job opportunities; and one cannot blame the Covid-19 pandemic alone for this. This is the result of a long-term neglect of the basic needs of its citizens that the state of Pakistan must address now. Cash transfers and offering free food at a couple of centres in each city is not a solution to these problems. The government must devise a long-term policy to tackle the extreme poverty coupled with increasing inflation that are leading people to commit suicides and kill their own children.