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Parliamentary Secretary, National Health Services, Dr Nausheen Hamid talks to Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johannson during the ceremony in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star
Parliamentary Secretary, National Health Services, Dr Nausheen Hamid talks to Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johannson during the ceremony in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s score on the Childhood Index has improved from 540 in 2000 to 626 in 2019, the Global Childhood Report 2019 says.

The report was launched by Save the Children at the concluding ceremony of ‘Children’s Action against Oppression and Neglect (CHAON)’ project.

The IKEA Foundation-funded project combined child protection systems, accelerated learning and a school health programme in Sindh and Punjab in collaboration with the provincial governments, reaching over 600,000 adults and over 800,000 children.

According to the report, at least 280 million children — or one child in eight — are dramatically better off today than at any time in the past two decades.

More children are healthy and surviving past their fifth birthday. More children have enough good food to eat, so their growth isn’t stunted. More children are in school and learning.

Former senator Farhatullah Babar said while there had been global improvements, children had not been on the agenda of governments and political parties in Pakistan.

“The space for INGOs has been shrinking for the past several years. The reason I came here was also to raise a voice for expanding the space for INGOs and NGOs which are doing child welfare work. I wish to advocate for the space for INGOs to work.

“Of course, there should be regulation and laws by the government. But it should be done through legislation, but through discussion and debate involving all political parties and all stakeholders,” he said.

Kemi Williams, Deputy Head DFID, said: “The work of Save the Children around the world and in Pakistan is important and it is important because children and young people are often neglected, forgotten and marginalised.

“Yet as we have heard this morning, they are our future and they have so much to offer. Pakistan has the potential for a demographic dividend if it can generate the jobs needed to bring more people, especially the most marginalised, into productive work.”

She added: “Pakistan is one of the youngest countries in the world; 64pc of the country’s population is under the age of 29, some 30pc between the ages of 15 and 29. For at least the next three decades Pakistan will continue to be a very young country with a population projected to reach 352 million by 2100.

“So, with a burgeoning youth population there is a potential for a once in a lifetime dividend which could accelerate economic growth and set Pakistan on a trajectory out of poverty to become a high-income country by 2047.”

Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johannson commended the collaboration between Save the Children and IKEA Foundation.

“These types of collaborations should be expanded further, and the role of NGOs and INGOs in development could not be exaggerated,” she said.

“This is true worldwide and also true in Pakistan. I truly appreciate the efforts made in the last eight years through the CHAON project to fight root causes of child labour and strengthen children’s rights,” she added.

According to the report, “In South Asia, trends for child labour among five to 14 years olds (exclusive of household chores) suggest India and Bangladesh have made very good gains for children (70pc and 66pc reduction, respectively). Pakistan has cut child labour for this age group by 29pc.”

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019