Promoting Child Rights

Photo: SK Enamul Haq

Despicable deprivation

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Pankaj Karmakar

The slum is no place for a girl to grow well. Residents lead a miserable life with little access to education, water, sanitation, health services, security and other urban facilities not to speak of a whole family sardine-packed in a tiny room.

Photo: SK Enamul Haq

Compared to adult slum dwellers, children are considered most vulnerable because they need extra care and facilities for their mental and physical growth.

A Unicef report titled ‘The State of the World’s Children-2012′ claimed around 41.7 million people are living in urban areas, 28 percent of the total population of Bangladesh.
With rapid growth of urbanisation a large number of rural population is heading for cities for sustenance. Almost all of them would find no other option but a slum to stay.
The report found that there are five areas of deprivation the slum children face. These are–access to improved water, access to improved sanitation, security of tenure, durability of housing and sufficient living area.
Most of the male slum dwellers earn their livelihoods working as rickshaw pullers, day labourers, transport workers or doing other sorts of informal jobs, while most of the females work as domestic help, construction worker, cook in road-side eateries etc.
Economic realities cause many families to rely on the income generated also by their children for survival. Many children have to give up their education at a very early stage of their lives and engage in works, even in hazardous jobs.
Daughters of working mothers engage in household chores and caring for youngers.
Visiting different slums in Dhaka, it was seen that children along with their families are living in very unhygienic and dirty environment with high risk of being infected with different severe diseases.
Due to lack of knowledge and being under constant financial constraint, their parents most often remain unaware about proper care of their children.
“I and my husband remain busy all the daylong with our jobs. We do not get time to take care of our children,” said Sufia Begum who lives in Agargaon slum.
Sufia works as cleaner at a private office and herusband Karim works as a bus helper.
Visiting the slum it was noticed children were playing on dirty and damp ground barefoot getting dusty and muddy themselves, some children were using the nearby drain at toilet, some were taking food with dirty hands.
“I wear sandal only when I go to school. My mother prohibits to wear sandal all the time as it may be damaged soon,” said Kalam, an eight years old boy living in the slum.
Talking to The Daily Star most of the slum dwellers responded with grave dissatisfaction that despite being citizens of the country, they are deprived of the basic right to health and sanitation services.
“It seems that there is no treatment for poor people in Bangladesh. My three-year old boy suffered from severe fever for around 15 days last January. But I could not provide proper treatment to him due to financial crisis. I got help from neither any government body nor any NGO,” said Rafiqul Islam, living in Dhaka’s Rayerbazar slum.
“There is a single toilet for 15 families. There is no proper disposal or treatment system of human waste that pours into the nearby ditch,” said slum dweller Ruksana.
Shortage of pure drinking water is one of the major problems for slum dwellers. Dhaka WASA is the only source of water for them, but the supply is very insufficient against demand.
“We get a few litres of water in the morning daily. We have to depend on that little amount for all the day long,” said Selina, another inhabitant of the same slum.
Every child has the right to lead a normal and healthy life, but the poor children in Dhaka’s urban slums are deprived of even the basic access to health, hygiene, education and leisure — vital for their growth.

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