With 25 million children out of school, 12 million engaged in labour and a newborn annual mortality rate of 225,000, the state of children in Pakistan is “dismal” and “deteriorating”.
That’s according to the 2012 State of Pakistan’s Children report, released on Thursday by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc). Children, who make up 48.75% of the country’s population, lack educational opportunities and health facilities and there is little effort to protect their rights, says the report, which has been published annually since 1997.
SPARC programme officer Sahiba Irfan Khan said that improving the lot of children in this country remained “a great challenge” and little effort had been made to take it on.
According to the report, 25 million children are out of school, including 7 million who have no primary schooling. Judging by the rate of increase in enrolment over recent years, Pakistan will fail to achieve the education targets of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The Global Monitoring Report 2012 of UNESCO ranks Pakistan 113 out of 120 countries on the Education Development Index.
Punjab has a primary school enrolment rate of almost 59%, with a 72% rate in urban areas and 58% in rural areas, states the report. The enrolment rate decreases at secondary level to 37%. The literacy rate stands at 50% for women and 69% for men, a result of social and cultural gender biases, it says.
The report also assesses the provinces’ attempts to pass legislation in order to conform with Article 25-A of the Constitution, which grants children aged 5 to 16 the right to free and compulsory education. In Punjab, the government has drafted a law, but is yet to present it in the Punjab Assembly.
Noting the impact of militancy on education, it states that militants destroyed 758 schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2012, including 640 in Malakand.
The report estimates that there are more than 12 million child labourers in Pakistan, while also reporting an estimate of 9.86 million made by the Child Rights Movement, an alliance of NGOs. Around 4.3% of children aged 10 to 14 are engaged in labour, according to the report, mostly in brick kilns, mines and carpet weaving. It notes that the government failed to carry out a promised national survey on child labour in 2012.
Some 618 newborn babies die every day in Pakistan. This comes to an annual estimate of 225,450 per year, which is due to the poor state of health in rural areas, particularly after the 2010 floods, says the report. Pakistan aims under the MDG to bring its mortality rate for children under-5 to 52 per 1,000 live births per year. It stood at 72 in 2011, as per a World Bank report, and 122 in 1990.
There were 58 polio cases in Pakistan in 2012, which was lower than in previous years (142 in 2010 and 198 in 2011). The ban on vaccinations in South and North Waziristan meant that around 300,000 children in those areas were at risk, it stated.
Some 306 children died in an outbreak of measles in 2012, a huge jump from 64 in 2011. The report states that a million children failed to receive the first dose of the measles vaccine in 2011.
Citing figures from the Madadgaar National Helpline, the report stated that there were 5,659 cases of violence against children over a span of eight months in 2012. These included 943 murders, 1,170 injuries, 320 cases of sodomy, 204 cases of child trafficking, 410 forced marriages, 164 cases of karo kari, 260 ‘missing children cases’, 407 sexual assaults, 547 cases of torture and 530 kidnappings. More than 2,500 of these cases took place in the Punjab 1,574 in Sindh, 945 in KPK and 543 in Balochistan.
At least 3,861 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012, said the report. Almost 68% of these happened in the Punjab and 71% involved a girl victim. Six per cent of the victims were aged 1 to 5, 16% were aged 6 to 10, and 22% aged 16 to 18.
A total of 1,398 juveniles were in prisons across Pakistan in 2012, of which 179 are convicts and 1,219 are under trial. Punjab has most of them, 814, of which 716 are under trial and 98 convicted. Only two of them are girls. The Punjab has just two detention centres for juveniles, in Bahawalpur and Faisalabad. Juveniles at the latter are also offered education facilities and skills training.
The State of Pakistan’s Children report states that the government has shown little interest in providing legal security to children. It failed to adopt bills pending since 2009, including the Criminal Law Amendment (Child Protection) Bill 2009 and the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill 2009.
Other legislation making immunisation compulsory, outlawing corporal punishment and child marriages, and for Nadra to register abandoned children was also pending.
Sparc recommended that the provincial governments establish independent provincial commissions on the rights of children and appoint ombudsmen for children.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2013.