Helping women and children

Published: August 31, 2010
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Millions more who have moved out from areas in Sindh and Balochistan threatened by flooding have reached shelters set up by the government and a patchwork of other organisations. Others have simply settled down besides roads, hoping they can soon return home. But while sighs of relief can be heard from many who have reached safety, these tend to be short-lived. Flood victims in Karachi, Sukkur, Multan and other places have expressed outrage over the lack of even the most basic provisions. Women and children in particular suffer due to these conditions. The number of expecting women now based at camps is thought to be high; the precise figure is unknown. But for these women there is no medical help. Female doctors are not available at many camps and we hear of frequent accounts of children being born while families are on the move. The insensitive management of camps means privacy is often non-existent for women, with no separate toilets or bathing spaces available.

Things are not much better for children. While international agencies plan to set up temporary learning spaces at camps, these have only just begun operating at a few sites. Tens of thousands of children, deeply traumatised by the flight of their families from their homes, have nothing to distract them and no useful way to fill time. Recreational facilities are non-existent and even food is not readily available. In a move that remains unparalleled for its lack of thought for expectant mothers, the elderly or children, camp managements at some places are reported to be serving meals only at sehr and iftar. Surely, there are people, especially children, who will need to eat at other times of the day. Groups affiliated with religious outfits are noted to be imposing this rule with special diligence and they need to be stopped from doing so.

Organisations including the WHO and Unicef have meanwhile expressed concern over the distribution of breast-milk substitutes. These of course endanger the health of infants, particularly given the lack of clean water. All of these concerns need to be looked into urgently, so that the needs of all victims can be met.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2010.

orr o 0 � untry filtered down to its sportsmen? Is the relative lack of awareness and financial insecurity of teenagers such as Aamir taken advantage of? Do they simply yearn for material riches and willingly abandon all morality to attain them? These are all factors. They reflect the kind of society we have become. But other nations – India, South Africa and Australia – have also faced match-fixing scandals. The willingness to impose bans, to address the matter head on may have saved them from the kind of ignominy we face now.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which has had to deal with numerous scandals in the last few years, including drugs charges and player rebellions, has a formula to make it seem as if it is holding players accountable without actually taking any meaningful action. An inquiry is held, long bans are handed out and then, when the furore dies down a bit, the bans are quietly overturned. Of course, all this does not mean that the PCB be let off the hook. Given the variety of disasters that have taken place under Chairman Ijaz Butt’s watch, it would be a travesty if he remains in the post. Only President Asif Ali Zardari has the authority to remove the PCB chairman. He needs to exercise that authority immediately.

Players who have a shady past need to be permanently excluded from positions of authority and officials against whom allegations have been made should not be included in squads. When the coaching staff includes Waqar Younis and Ijaz Ahmed, cricketers who featured prominently in the match-fixing scandals of the ’90s, younger players will get the impression that cheating will go unpunished. There may be some, including the players, who argue that spot-fixing is not as major a crime as match-fixing. These kinds of justifications are pointless because the game has to be played in a competitive spirit and that any attempt to compromise that – for even a ball – means that the players are playing not to represent their nation but to make some extra money. And that is why those who indulge in this are called cheats.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2010.

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