Educationists concerned over nutrition disorders among schoolchildren

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A large number of children in the flood-affected areas of Sindh are still facing nutrition deficiency as their parents do not have a better option than to continue living a livelihood.
The Sindh Community Foundation (SCF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), observed during its intervention that now when the new term of education has started after the two-month summer vacation, food deficiency is the main problem in these areas where minor children might be the majority of the victims. The situation is especially worse in those areas where the farmer communities depend on cultivation, so the situation is worst in terms of food shortage.
“We have observed that several people travel long distances daily to find work in the nearby towns because the life in these villages has been completely shattered after the devastation caused by the flood,” said SCF head Javed Hussain.
He said that they offer their full-day work at minimum wages, taking it as a blessing, adding that due to cheap labour, these people cannot meet the needs of their families, so in this situation, mostly minor children have become the major victims of food shortage.
He also said that in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation-Pakistan and the Qatari Diar, the SCF has donated schoolbags, uniforms, shoes, food packets and milk packets among 1,000 girls studying in 30 pre-primary schools of Dadu, Thatta and Jamshoro districts. The objective was to ensure that more attendance of children in these most-affected areas could be ensured, he added.
He urged upon the government to take measures to rehabilitate irrigation canals to ensure increase in agriculture products to avoid any issue of food shortage in the province. He said that announcing a special package for small growers and excluding them from unnecessary taxes could be better options for the government to resolve the problems of village communities because farmers are the most negligent segment of the society.
Quoting figures released by the National Disaster Management Authority, he said that the flood destroyed 2,700 school buildings completely, whereas 7,000 other school buildings were damaged partially across the province. Seven hundred schools were damaged in Thatta district alone, he added.
He also said that according to the report, 30 to 60 children are enrolled in each affected village school, and they are being deprived of their education after the passage of a year. A total of 1,800 schools are no more functional because the rehabilitation process started by the national and international donors with the support of local organisations could not build or renovate school buildings, he added.
He further said that according to the figures, attendance of 2.5 million children has been affected and they could not resume their education due to various reasons, but mostly because their institutes have been destroyed and their parents are unable to get them enrolled in schools located in other villages. Poverty and unemployment are considered the main reasons, he added.
The SCF head said that the exact figures for verifying the current situation are not available after the administrative changes. Officials sitting in such district offices are not sure about any future plan, especially for the rehabilitation of these schools to save the future of the children, he added.
He said that according to Thatta district government’s figures, 250,000 children could not return to their native villages because their families had shifted to other areas. He added that in areas like Sujawal and Jati, a large number of damaged schools are no more functional and need rehabilitation.
He also said that the SCF is a partner of the World Food Programme, and during the emergency response, other United Nations clusters also provided food to the affected families in relief camps while the communities tried to resume their lives among the debris of their previous life.
He further said that now when the new term of schools has started from August 1 after the two-month summer vacation, further post-flood assessment in needed to know the status of enrolment in schools of the flood-affected areas and the issue of nutrition deficiency among the minor children to avoid another disaster.
“During our intervention in Thatta, Dadu and Jamshoro districts, we witnessed children living in deplorable conditions and their future is at stake. This is the time for the government and NGOs to take the issue of nutrition deficiency seriously and address the same with political will. Otherwise, it could be disastrous for the families, which are still struggling to resume their livelihood,” he added.

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