ISLAMABAD: The federal capital has turned out to be the most vulnerable district with regard to the presence of street children — 33 per cent of the children of school-going age are living here, a report titled ‘Plight of Street Children in Islamabad,’ says.
Launched by the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Federal Ombudsman) the report gives startling details about the ordeal of street children in Islamabad and shares that during the medical examination of the sample of street children it was found that they were suffering from serious issues of malnutrition, drug addiction, sexual abuse, skin diseases and even HIV. Besides, there has been a 25 per cent increase in such children during one year alone i.e. from 2020 to 2021.
No letup in beggary
According to the report, beggars, particularly kids of school-going age, are at an all-time high despite arrests and imprisonment. From 1991 to May 2022, 597 adult beggars and their facilitators were picked by police and put behind the bars. Challans were submitted in 98.99 per cent cases, leading to conviction in 98.09 per cent cases and acquittal in 1.9 per cent yet scores of beggars are witnessed across the city on different chowks and important points.
The report also indicates that 11,681 street children in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) were picked by the police from January 2020 to May 2022 and dropped at Edhi Centre. The Edhi Centre, however, has neither mandate nor capacity to accommodate street children therefore, releases them in the evening, it further said.
The study that is conducted among the children of average age, 12 gives diverse information such as their educational status, living conditions, ethnic and linguistic background, etc. Among the sample of the street children surveyed 65pc are male and 35pc are female.
According to the report, 91 per cent of children involved in beggary or child labour were living with their families or guardians, generally migrants from Northern Areas, nomad tribes and refugees, while 9 per cent were those who have no proper dwellings.
Afghan refugee factor
Conducted and compiled by Advisor/Grievance Commissioner for Children Syeda Viquar-un-Nisa Hashmi and her team, the report shows that among the street children of Islamabad, a big chunk comes from the Afghan refugee families.
In the ICT, there are 19,961 registered Afghan refugees of up to the 17-year age group. Some of them are involved in child labour while some are also exploited by the locals into begging.
In light of the report, which is first-ever by the Federal Ombudsman to address the plight of the Out of School Children/street children, Federal Ombudsman Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi directed all concerned agencies of the federal government to implement the recommendations of the study report.
It was recommended in the report that a robust mechanism must be made for the rescue and care of children in need which includes the registration of refugees on a priority basis and provision of basic facilities of health and education for them regardless of their status.