ISLAMABAD: A report released around the world on Thursday has ranked Pakistan as the 24th worst country for children to experience childhood.

The report, produced by Save the Children and titled Silent Childhood, ranked India at 116, Bangladesh at 134, Sri Lanka at 61, Afghanistan at 152, Iran at 80, China at 41, Sudan at 144 and Yemen at 140 out of 172 countries. Pakistan came in 148th place.

The report said one in four children was robbed of their childhood every day around the world. Over 16,000 children die before their fifth birthday, mostly of preventable or treatable causes and a quarter of all children under the age of five – 156 million – face stunted physical growth and mental development due to malnutrition.

One in six school-aged children around the worldwide is out of school, conflict has forced nearly one child in 80 from their homes, 160 million children in the world are involved in child labour – 85 of whom are involved in hazardous work – which is higher than the number of children living in Europe (138 million).

Report findings unsurprising given alarming levels of child stunting, undernutrition across country, CRM coordinator says

The report said one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds, a girl gives birth every two seconds and more than 200 girls and boys are murdered around the world every day.

The report was launched by the Child Rights Movement (CRM) on Thursday to coincide with International Children’s Day. CRM is a coalition of over 400 civil society organisations that work to promote and protect child rights in Pakistan.

The report examined countries using a range of indicators related to children, with Pakistan performing the worst on child stunting, which affects over 45pc of children under five across the country. It said over a quarter of Pakistani children do not go to children, one of the highest in the world.

The report recommends investing in children to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and ensuring that all children are treated equally. Governments need to ensure that all children, particularly excluded children, are counted in the data used to measure progress on the SDGs, and all children should have access to good quality education. The report says no child should be robbed of childhood because of marriage or pregnancy.

The report says no young life should be cut short due to violence or forced labour. The government should foster income generating activities for families and communities to increase household and community resources and guarantee minimum financial security for all children, it states.

CRM Coordinator Alishba Yousaf, speaking to the media at the report launch, said the findings were unsurprising in the face of alarming levels of stunting and undernutrition across the country. Over 8pc of children in Pakistan do not survive until their fifth birthday, she said.

Children who suffer from undernutrition or stunting are at increased risk of contracting diseases such as acute diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and anaemia, while children who suffer severe undernutrition are more likely to die.

Ms Yousaf said it was encouraging that the government was taking steps to provide free and compulsory schooling, but strict measures are required to ensure compliance with the law.

“A safe and happy childhood is every child’s right, and that includes going to school, no matter where they are in the world. Here in Pakistan, we need to do much more to ensure this right is protected,” she said.

Ishtiaqul Hasan Gilani, the chief executive of an NGO, said though the government had passed legislation for free and compulsory education for children between the ages of five and 16, funds are not allocated.

“There should be enough resources to ensure every child is admitted to school. CRM has been focusing on providing basic facilities to the children of Pakistan, and we have been [working] for the establishment of the National Commission on the Rights of Children,” he said.

Sahil representative Mumtaz Gohar said according to media reports over 4,000 children were sexually abused in 2016, adding: “A large number of cases are never reported, so one can imagine how many children are sexually abused in Pakistan.”

“The incident in Kasur, in which over 100 children were molested, was horrible and there were expectations that the culprits would be taken to justice. But despite the registration of 22 FIRs, no one has been punished,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2017