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Children paying the price in Pakistan

Travelling in a flood-affected area of Badin, I saw a young girl working beside her mother in the cotton fields.

It was difficult to say how old she was; my guess was that she was no more than 8 or 9. She had a very serious and solemn expression on her face, almost a reflection of her mother’s.

I ventured out into what remains of the crops after the devastating rains to talk to the young cotton picker and her mother. As I walked closer, I could see that she was even younger than I had first thought.

Buying books and school uniform

They looked at me, straightened their backs and let their hands fall to their side and waited for me to speak.

I greeted them with salaam and asked the name of the village she belonged to. She answered me in Urdu, which made me curious. Urdu could only be learnt if you went to school.

She told me that she was working with her mother in the landlord’s fields and whatever she earned she spent on books and school clothes.

Never known childhood

A few days earlier, another six-year-old girl I met told me she knows that she will never be able to attend school because as the eldest daughter, she has to look after her younger siblings and help her mother with household chores.

These girls have never known a true childhood; they have all had to grow up very quickly. They know that their parents don’t have enough money to send them to schools, buy them new clothes or even feed them three meals a day.

Every misery, from hunger, poverty, lack of shelter, child abuse, child labour, illiteracy and disease takes its toll on their young lives.

Too busy trying to survive

Thousands of children in the flood-affected areas of Sindh don’t have enough time to be kids; they’re too busy trying to survive. They grow up malnourished and uneducated as they work on the land of the feudal landlords and serve them throughout their lives.

They get married at a young age, in most cases while they are still in their early teens. They have on average between six and eight children before they themselves reach the age of 25.

The cycle then continues the way it has for centuries.

Hope for change

I can only hope that good quality care and education can be made available to them soon.

This is the only way to protect their childhood and their future.

Save the Children has reached over 9,000 children with our education response, including setting up temporary school structures and temporary learning spaces to enable children to begin or continue their education.

Please donate to our Pakistan appeal

This blog was written by Huzan Waqar, Media and Communications Officer, Sindh.

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