KARACHI: A group of 10 students of the Karachi University’s (KU) department of sociology and criminology research the plight and different socio-economic issues faced by displaced children living on the streets of Karachi. The results of the research were shaped at a programme held at the hotel on Wednesday.

The researchers exposed a gloomy picture of children living on the streets in which they chiefly focused on the socio-economic issues , as well as the vulnerability of these displaced children, who had been forced by either natural or man-made disasters to the move toward unknown destinations.

Nazra Jehan, the campaign coordinator in Pakistan, said a large number of migrant children were living in the country without support and socio-economic security.

“Among the migrant children, Afghan children are in majority while a number of Bengali, Burmese and children of other nationalities are also living without protection.”

She said besides migrant children from other countries, internally displaced children were tangibly living on the streets. “We are witnessing a rapid increase in the numbers of displaced children living in distress in Karachi.”

The university students were engaged to conduct research regarding the difficulties being faced by the children. The key focus of the research was to find out the root cause of the problems that led children towards exploitation, delinquency, drugs, child labor and begging.

The research highlighted primary data and the gravity of vulnerability among children on the move, with families and without. Due to a sharp increase in mobility and migration, families have been exposed to various socio-cultural challenges and economic vulnerability in urban areas. The increasing number of street children in Karachi and other urban centers “is a glaring example of child vulnerability.”

The research said one of the major causes of delinquency of children was parental neglect and the socio-economic conditions they faced. It noticed that drug use was very common among children in jail, and those engaged in child labor. Besides, cases of sexual abuse involving such children were also reported.

Lack of education:

“The common element among ail such victims including those affected by gang wars and law and order situation, was lack of education.”

Amna Zafar shared the vulnerable issues of health faced by Afghan refugee children whose means of livelihood involved garbage picking. The study explored the present status of Afghan children who faced a hostile environment which affected their physical and emotional health.

The study showed important variables of age, residential area, education, and family income, number of family members and period of migration of these Afghan refugees. It found that Afghan children aged 10-13 years had adopted rag-picking as their profession and most lived in Juma Goth in shanty settlements with more than 12 extended family members.

Almost all of the respondents migrated more than a decade ago from Afghanistan. Some were born in Pakistan whose grandparents had migrated during the war or due to unstable political and economic conditions at home. The majority of them were uneducated while some were school dropouts after primary education.

Those children belonged to low-income families with a monthly income of Rs 5,000-8,000.

Jawaria Tariq studied the development of risk factors among displaced adolescents through the use of substances that caused stress, depression, anxiety, and mental problems. The data was collected from Nusrat Bhutto ColonyKhadda Market of LyariAzam Basti and Gulshan-i-Iqbal Block 10.

Rabia Sohail studied the effects of substance abuse on street adolescents of Karachi. The study found the majority of respondents were young, hailing from Orangi Town, illiterate and unemployed.

The study highlighted the different stomach diseases resulting from substance abuse.

Tehseen Anwer conducted a sociological study of socio-economic determinants of child labor at automobile workshops of Karachi. The data was collected from North Nazimabad, Lyari, Central Prison Karachi and the UNHCR. The findings of the study showed negative impacts on the physical health of those children unaware of their basic rights. They were victims of verbal abuse and often beaten harshly. They worked in extremely unhygienic conditions with lack of medical facilities. The majority of such children were involved in drug addiction and were afflicted with dangerous diseases.

A study conducted by SamiUllah on children involved in street crime showed that they lived in situations that put them at risk of exploitation, abuse and discrimination. Those children became victims of racism, violence and other related problems.

Another study was conducted by Anum Agha vis-a-vis effects of socio-economic problems of inmates languishing in the Youthful Offenders Industrial School (YOIS). The majority of the inmates belonged to low income families, were illiterate, involved in drug abuse and showed aggressiveness in their behavior. The researcher concluded the presence of crime in family and friends was also an important cause of delinquent behavior in the children.

“Long stays of juveniles in prison due to delay in decisions, interaction of juvenile offenders with adult criminals is negatively affecting them.”

“Another problem is that prisons are losing their role of deterrence in Pakistan. There is no institution for juvenile offenders in which they socialize and receive good education.”

The students were facilitated by the network of child rights organizations under the global campaign titled ‘Destination Unknown — Children on the Move’ organized by Devcon (An Association for Rural Development) and supported by Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF).—Hasan Mansoor

 

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2017.

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