A better future for every child

Pakistan must invest in its future by ensuring the rights of its youngest citizens

A better future for every child


s November comes to a close, the annual celebration of Universal Children’s Day beckons us to engage in thoughtful contemplation about the hurdles encountered by the youngest persons in our society.

This reflection gains heightened significance in the intricate tapestry of Pakistan. The condition of our children serves as a poignant barometer, mirroring the overall health and resilience of the nation.

There are persistent challenges that act as impediments to the optimal growth and development of Pakistan’s children. Though varied and complex, these challenges demand collective attention and concerted efforts.

One of the most critical challenges confronting our society is the issue of equitable access to quality education. Despite efforts by both the government and various non-governmental organisations, more than 22 million children in Pakistan are currently deprived of the right to education.

This access to education gap not only robs them of essential knowledge and skills but also perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty that is a significant hindrance to the nation’s overall progress.

As we observe Universal Children’s Day, it is incumbent upon us to reaffirm our commitment to the cause of ensuring that every child, irrespective of their socio-economic background, is afforded the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. The International Rescue Committee’s Pakistan Reading Project aims to enhance the reading skills of more than 1.3 million children nationwide.

The alarming disparity in access to education, particularly for girls, needs to be recognised and targeted. By acknowledging and actively combating these disparities, we can create a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape for all children in Pakistan. We must resolve to break the chains of educational inequality and empower every child with the transformative force of knowledge.

Child protection remains a pressing concern that warrants our unwavering attention. Pakistan has taken significant strides in formulating and enforcing laws aimed at shielding children from exploitation, abuse and violence. Despite notable progress, the country still grapples with alarmingly low rates of birth registration, as highlighted by the PDHS 2017-18 report, which indicates that only 42 percent of children under the age of five had their births officially recorded.

Birth registration, beyond being a fundamental human right in itself, plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the broader spectrum of children’s rights. It serves as a cornerstone for ensuring that children receive the protections and entitlements they deserve. Recognising the gravity of this issue, it is imperative that we engage communities across Pakistan, particularly in marginalised areas, to raise awareness and facilitate the birth registration process.

The IRC is dedicated to providing case management services and bolstering child protection systems to create a more secure environment for the nation’s youth. Through these efforts, we aim to contribute to the holistic well-being of children in Pakistan, fostering a future where their rights are respected and protected.

Initiatives should centre on delivering essential services such as education, healthcare and protection to the most marginalised and at-risk children. The ultimate goal is to forge a future characterised by resilience and equity, ensuring that every child can thrive.

Healthcare remains a critical sphere demanding continuous progress. While Pakistan has made some strides in decreasing child mortality rates, the imperative for enhanced healthcare access persists, particularly in remote and underserved regions. The ongoing challenge of malnutrition significantly jeopardises the welfare of our children. Community-based organisations should be strengthened to play the pivotal role in advancing responsive governance and service delivery in the nutrition sector. A comprehensive approach can include:

enhancing facility-based treatments;

expanding the outreach of nutrition programs at the community level; and

empowering CBOs to spearhead advocacy efforts and engage in policy dialogues.

There is a serious need to prioritise children in the aftermath of climate-related disasters as part of emergency response efforts. This commitment entails guaranteeing access to secure spaces, education, psychosocial support and healthcare to alleviate both the immediate and enduring effects of the crisis on their well-being.

A comprehensive approach that extends beyond addressing the immediate needs of children impacted by climate-related disasters needs to developed. Advocacy efforts should emphasise the necessity of concurrently fostering resilience and preparedness within communities. This involves substantial investments in community-based adaptation strategies and early warning systems, with the aim of diminishing the risks faced by children during such events.

By adopting a holistic perspective, we can create more sustainable solutions that not only respond to crises but also fortify communities against the potential impacts of future climate-related challenges.

Confronted by these formidable challenges, the government, local partners and the global community must steadfastly uphold their commitment to collaborate in tackling the underlying factors contributing to child vulnerability.

The initiatives should centre on delivering essential services such as education, healthcare and protection to the most marginalised and at-risk children. The ultimate goal is to forge a future characterised by resilience and equity, ensuring that every child can thrive.

The focus must be on establishing meaningful strategic partnerships with public institutions to collaboratively address mutual concerns related to safeguarding children in Pakistan. Together, we can work towards fostering synergies aimed at reinforcing child protection systems.

As we mark Universal Children’s Day, it is crucial to acknowledge that investing in the well-being of our children is an investment in the future prosperity of Pakistan. By placing a priority on their education, protection, and health, we can disrupt the cycle of poverty and contribute to the creation of a society where every child has the opportunity to realise their dreams.

This celebration serves as a call to action that transcends borders and ideologies, uniting us in the collective responsibility of ensuring a brighter tomorrow for the children.

The writer is the country director of the International Rescue Committee-Pakistan

A better future for every child