ISLAMABAD: Thousands of orphans in the country remain on the waiting lists for space in a handful of government-run orphanages in the country.
This typifies the government’s effort to provide shelter and succour to the most underprivileged members of society.
With a population of 200 million, there are only 35 shelter homes in Pakistan. These shelters can provide accommodation to only 3,500 orphans (or around 100 each). This means that thousands of orphans remain on the waiting list.
By the time a place is available most children cross the prescribed age limit to get enrolled and avail the facility.
Tagged Pakistan Sweet Homes, these shelters are managed by the Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM).
Insensitive to this issue as is the wont of the powers that be, like in many other cases the government provided the National Assembly very scant information on the matter.
According to statistics submitted to the National Assembly recently, the PBM had so far established 35 Pakistan Sweet Homes to cater to orphans in the four provinces along with Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Shaikh Rohail Asghar, a parliamentarian from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in his written question had asked the minister in-charge of the Cabinet Division if PBM had established Pakistan Sweet Homes in each district of the country and if not, how long would it take to do the same.
To his surprise, the minister in his reply stated that they faced financial constraints in setting up an orphanage in each and every district.
Each of these centres can accommodate around 100 orphans (children who had lost either one or both parents), hence the government is currently tending to 3,500 orphans at these facilities.
Furthermore, the minister claimed that the age limit for enrolling orphans is between four to six years. The government said that these children are kept in home-like environments with provision of boarding facility, food and clothing.
Interestingly, due to age bracket for enrolment, thousands of children who do not fall in this age limit, automatically get disqualified from availing official facility.
According to PBM’s official website “a large number” of orphans are on its waiting list though the exact numbers are not given.
In response to a separate query, parliament was informed that the PBM has received a total of 146,275 applications for financial assistance, medical treatment and educational assistance during the last three years.
Of these applications, 119,898 applications were approved while the remaining 26,377 applications were rejected between fiscal year 2013 and 2016.
The applications, PBM said, were rejected on various grounds such as incomplete information regarding applicants, expiry or illegible copies of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) of parents and the non-eligibility of PBM beneficiaries.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2017.