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Food prices inflation intensifies risk of increase in child labour, violence against women 

27 Mei 2011 09:42:52

Food prices inflation intensifies risk of increase in child labour, violence against women

Food price inflation is costing heavily on the poor as more children are at risk of being put into child labour since their parents cannot afford to send them to schools and violence against women and children is increasing.

A survey by social researcher Amir Murtaza for INFN says respondents in a short survey told that food price hike have force them to withdraw children from schools as they cannot afford even two time meals in meager income. In this process girls come first to be withdrawn from schools.

Nighat Hayat, 38, mother of three children said she spends 80% of family's income on buying very basic food items such as flour, rise, sugar, pulses, and vegetables.  “We rarely eat beef, approximately once in last six months as we really forgot the taste of meat and chicken. I don’t know how to mange three time meal in such situation when the prices of essential kitchen items have been constantly moving in upward direction,” she added.

Nighat said her family income is Rs. 6,500 a month and the family lives in one-room rented house with a rent of Rs 1,500 per month. It has become absolutely impossible for the family to meet the food expenses in remaining Rs 5,000 for one month.

When asked about children’s education, she said, “Due to such financial constraints, we have no choice but to discontinue education of both girls in a bid to keep the son in school, who is a student of class V. But we are not sure as to how long we can bear even his education’s expenses.”

A report ‘Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia’ published last month by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said soaring food prices plunged 6.94 million more people in Pakistan into poverty trap, based on the $1.25 a day poverty line, as food inflation reached double digits in the bracket of 10-20% food prices hike, with 13.1% increase in price of rice and 10% in wheat during current fiscal year.

Basheer Kazmi, from an education-focused non-government organization viewed that poverty has always been one of the most significant factors in keeping children out of school in Pakistan.  He said growing poverty forces parents to send their children, as young as even 6 year old, to work as child laborers. “Families’ inability to take care of their children increases their vulnerability to become a victim of any sort of violence. Child labourers frequently experience physical, sexual and emotional violence in Pakistan,” he added.

Food shortages and soaring food prices have made thousands of people to become dependent on charity food outlets and the numbers of such facilities are growing rapidly in urban centres as well as other parts of the country.

Zohra Mai, a mother of four children, told INFN that her husband gets good lunch from charity food outlets and therefore, he doesn’t have any slightest concern about the food requirement of other family members. As, he eats Bryani and Qaorma everyday he is not bothered that even children don’t have two time meal in a day.  “Whenever, I told my husband that Rs.150 per day is not sufficient to arrange food for the family, he started shouting and even beating me and children ruthlessly.”

Poor aside, even middle class families are forced to withdraw facilities from their maids. Usually, middle class families used to give leftover food to their maids, but now they even tend to save the leftover for their own use. “Certainly, it not a good trend but I can’t force my Begum Sahiba to give me leftover food for my children which she used to give me in routine,” a domestic servant and mother of three children said.

“I have been working as maid for last five years and earning Rs 3,500 a month. In addition to the salary my Begum Sahiba gives me leftover food for my family. Now she has stopped giving me the food. I am spending my whole month’s salary on food and only able to make one time meal in the evening,” Mai Muradan, a mother of four children and whose husband is a heroin addict, said. Due to food prices inflation and minimal employment opportunities many poor families have opted begging as part-time profession.