Syeda Rumana Mehdi
According to UNICEF, 22000 children die of poverty everyday. They die unnoticed in some of the poorest villages, far from the sight of this selfish world. According to SOS, 153 million children worldwide have lost either one or both parents and over 1 billion children live in areas of armed conflict. Have we ever put our feet in their desolate shoes? Have we ever imagined living life in a refugee camp, eating stale food every day? Have we ever thought of running away from our homelands, crossing borders in secret for fear of death? Have we ever buried an infant child with our own hands, its dried blood on our hands?
No we haven’t. And this is why we are who we are. Whenever a tragedy occurs, we remove our profile pictures from Facebook,upload pictures of the deceased, say terrible things about the government and go to sleep, content that we had played our role in social change. Can removing our profile pictures bring back those 276 abducted girls in Nigeria? Can sharing posts stop Boko Haram from using girls as young as 10 as suicide bombers? No, because we dont understand our role as agents of change.
According to Save the Children, Afghan children have been affected by conflict for almost 30 years. Only half of children are in school today, many work in the streets or in fields and homes to support their families. These children face one of the worst chances of survival of anywhere in the world. One in four children dies before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases and malnutrition. Moreover, teachers are allowed to physically punish children which makes the educational experience horrifying.
UNICEF (www.unicef.org) sheds light on child labor in Bangladesh. According to the Labour Law of Bangladesh 2006, the minimum legal age for work is 14. However, as 93 per cent of the children work in the informal sector – in small factories and workshops, on the street, in home-based businesses and domestic employment – the enforcement of the is virtually impossible. These children are subject to racial discrimination, sexual abuse and say suffer severe physical and mental damage.
Disabled children in Bhutan are a marginalised part of the society and lack of specialised organisations aggravates the problem. Humanium further states that the rights of the disabled are not exercised and access to public services is limited. They also face hurdles in education, health care and general welfare.
Infochange expresses concern over foeticide in India. Sex-selective abortion is taking a heavy toll, even as neglect of ‘survivors’ of this weeding out process persists. Abortion of female foetuses through sex-selective abortion is not due to poverty and ignorance. Affluent states like Haryana, districts of Gujarat, and Delhi have people who can pay for expensive tests to help choose male children over females. Research reveals that posh metropolitan India, with 904 girls per 1,000 boys, has a lower sex ratio for children below 6 years than overcrowded slums where there are 919 girls per 1,000 boys. Those who can “afford to choose,” who use the technology to do so to silence innocent lives on the basis of their gender.
Maldives suffers from lack of pure water as reported by UNICEF. The groundwater in the Maldives, which is used for cooking, washing and even drinking, is heavily contaminated with human waste. As a result, children lack the solid nutritional foundation required to sustain water-borne and other related diseases, and the cycle of malnutrition and morbidity continues.
The Women’s Foundation Nepal focuses on women issues including child marriage. In Nepal, 30% of the girls aged between 15 and 19 are married. Child marriage violates rights and is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation of girls. This happens due to the belief that girls are a burden to the family. It is also associated with the dowry system, wherein daughters who marry early require lower payments. The harmful effects of child marriage include serious health risks, separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities and decreased opportunities for education. It can also lead to bonded labour or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence.
According to Irin News, UNICEF said that 14 percent of children under five in Sri Lanka showed signs of being acute underweight and chronic underweight whereas 29 percent of children younger than five were underweight for their age. A World Food Program official said that nutritional levels are likely to fall further due to increase in food prices owing to a staggering inflation rate of 17.5%.
On December 16 2014, 143 children were killed in the shootout by the Taliban at Army Public School in Peshawar. Fire raged in our hearts and tears flowed from our eyes. From offices to places of worship, the schools were the next target. A parent of a deceased child remarked, “They say that we dont send our children to school. And when we do, we bring their bodies back on our shoulders.” For every heart that stopped beating that day,we are accountable. For every pair of eyes that closed forever, we are guilty. For every pair of lungs that stopped breathing, we deserve to be punished.
The least we can understand from this tragedy is that these children taught us the power of education. They were the true heroes because they went to school in spite of the danger to their lives. Their bloody shrouds are telling us to send our children, I say children and not just boys, to school. If education is stunted, then the world will be another generation of ISIS, Taliban and Boko Haram. The only sounds that will reach our ears shall be that of gun shots, bombs and grenades. The only color that the generation next shall know shall be red.
Some 805 million people in this world do not have enough food to lead a healthy life. One out of every six children in developing countries is underweight. 66 million children globally attend primary school on an empty stomach. These statistics can change and you can change them not by updating statuses on Facebook but by actually doing something. You can change these statistics by changing yourself. Change these statistics by feeling for others. I’m not asking you to give up your life and mourn the dead, but I’m asking you to understand that each human has a right to enjoy his life too. No one deserves to be aborted because of their gender, no one deserves to be killed because he goes to school, no on deserves to be murdered because of his religion. We need to create a world without borders where no one is a refugee, a homeless or a stateless person. And once we teach ourselves this, I’m sure we will never target innocent children again.
Image: Flick creative common via nattu