Protection centres aim to end the cycle of child labour in Pakistan quake zone
By Sandra Bisin
North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, 9 October 2007 – For over seven months, eight-year-old Khairuddin and his brothers have been roaming the streets of Abbotabad in North West Frontier Province, collecting empty bottles from garbage heaps to make a little money to bring home to their family.
“I was so scared, I remember the rubble all around my neighbourhood”, recalls Kahiruddin. Khairuddin's house in Muzaffarabad collapsed during the 8 October 2005 earthquake that killed over 73,000 people. “I was so scared,” recalled Khairuddin. “I remember the rubble all around my neighbourhood.”
Following the earthquake, many families like Khairuddin’s were forced to migrate to urban areas in search of a better life. Many youths ended up as street children, often taking on exploitative jobs as child labourers.
In Abbotabad, Khairuddin’s father ended up earning only 250 rupees ($4) per day and could barely make ends meet, so Khairuddin went out scavenging. “It is because of poverty that my brother and I are working,” Khairuddin said. “If I were not doing this, what would I do to support my family?”
Protection against child labour
In response to this situation, UNICEF and its partners are offering protective services through two new child protection centres in Abbotabad, which were established in June of this year.
“Most parents tell us that after the earthquake a real issue for them was shelter,” said one of the centre's child protection monitors, Akbar Ali. “They lost their houses, their cattle and livelihoods. They realized they were no longer in a situation to provide for their families.”
A total of 95 children attend the two centres, 25 of them girls. To date, eight children have been enrolled in schools in Abbotabad.
“In these centres, children are offered non-formal education as a way of reintegrating them into government schools,” explained UNICEF Child Protection Officer Agnes Mutenyo Karani. Workers at the centre also meet with local employers to raise awareness on children’s rights, so that child labour can be completely avoided.
Looking towards the future
Recently, Khairuddin began attending one of the UNICEF-supported centres. Here, he receives a non-formal education and participates in recreational activities.
“I have never been to school,” said Khairuddin. “I have been coming to this centre every day for the past 16 days. I am learning to read and write, and I can play with toys. I don’t have toys at home as my family cannot afford them."
Khairuddin continued: "I want to become educated and get a good job later on.”