International Children’s Day is celebrated on June 1 annually to honour children and highlight their rights.
However, seeing them working as domestic workers and scavenging the streets of the capital city speaks volumes of the government’s resolve to provide better futures for these children. Efforts of the numerous international and national organisations working for children, who now make up half of the country’s population, also seem ineffectual.
Like many other places, one can see a number of such impoverished children while travelling on Khanna Pul road, begging for alms in the sweltering heat or the freezing cold.
Abbas Ali, barely 13, is one such child, who comes here every morning to earn for his family of five. His father a scrap collector and elder brother a scavenger, Ali was forced to leave school given the bleak financial position of his family.
“One day when I’m old enough I will becoming a doctor,” said Ali with high hopes of his future.
Apart from his ambitions, Ali is also unique among other children given his distinct skeletal deformity that has left him with a pigeon chest and a hunched back, complications his family claims were caused after he suffered from typhoid at the age of six.
The family said Ali’s condition worsened after a “wealthy man” injured him by kicking him in the back for urinating outside his house. Unable to bear the cost of his medical treatment, Ali’s wounds were left untreated.
The family lives in a small tent in the slums of Iqbal Town under extremely unhygienic conditions, lacking drainage or sanitation facility.
Ali’s mother, Shehnaz Bibi said, “When my children get up in the morning to go for begging or collecting garbage, I wish that instead they could go to school, but that is a luxury I cannot afford.”
After a day’s work, Ali can be found playing with other children on the greenbelt along Khanna Pul road, oblivious to his miseries and full of hope of a better future.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2011.