Pakistan has always been unkind to its most vulnerable citizens. The treatment of children, particularly orphans and street children and the abuse they are subjected to on the streets of this country, is only a testament of that. A news story published in this newspaper reported that thousands of orphans are on a waiting list to get admitted to the Pakistan Sweet Homes, which provide accommodation and other necessary facilities to children who have lost their parents. According to the United Nation’s children’s agency, Pakistan is home to 4.3 million orphaned children. At the same time, there are a mere 36 sweet homes around Pakistan that cannot accommodate more than 1,00 children at a time, which basically means that of the hundreds of thousands of homeless orphans, only 3,600 can be granted a home by the government of Pakistan. The waiting list is so long that by the time many children get their admission processed, they have already crossed the age limit for sweet homes, which can only house children between the ages of four and six.
While this initiative is relatively new as the project only started in 2009, it urgently needs to expand further to provide housing to a larger number of people. It is also concerning that of all the sweet homes, there are only two in Balochistan — one in Quetta and one in Zhob — and a mere five in all of Sindh. Meanwhile in orphanages run by charities, more often than not children are kept in dismal conditions because there is barely any monitoring by the government of living conditions in such facilities. In the wake of national disasters such as the 2005 earthquake and earthquakes in Balochistan in later years, the 2010 floods as well as incidents of terrorism, the need for better welfare facilities for children has really magnified. As a signatory to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Pakistan also has treaty obligations to protect children’s rights. Pakistan must provide safe spaces for children and not let them spend their childhood on a waiting list.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2017.
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