Pakistan’s hungry children: The struggle to survive

Published: November 7, 2010
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Angry Pakistanis protest the rising cost of living.

On a recent visit to the house of my aunt’s friend this week, I realised the severity of helplessness some of us are subjected to as Pakistanis.

Being a university teacher and living in a respectable neighbourhood, I assumed – rather took for granted – that my host lived a comfortable life like many of us do.

However, what I witnessed in reality was far from my initial judgement.

During the visit I couldn’t help but notice that her sons who had just returned from school would not eat lunch; rather they stayed away from the dining room completely. Her two daughters, who were getting ready to go to their school for the late shift, instead had lunch.

To satisfy my curiosity, I asked her younger son about his absence from the table and what I got in reply left me unnerved to say the least.

He said,

We had breakfast. Now it’s my sisters’ turn to eat.

In an attempt to save up, or simply because feeding four children at once was unaffordable, the children took turns for their meals.

This is the reality of the most unexplored population of our city – the working class.

My aunt’s friend’s husband works in the Higher Education Commission; in fact, both husband and wife are extremely cultured and educated people. Yet their financial constraints have forced them to assign meals to their children.

Imagine the courage it takes to do that, while struggling to show a brave face to society and fulfilling all requirements of the ‘expected’ respectable urban life.

This is exactly what the lack of administration and corruption has left the average man with – enough to survive but not enough to live.

This is where we stand after a 15 per cent increase in the inflation rate in the past two months. I wonder how the elasticity rule works on people.

Where does it break? How long do we have to bear the burden of corruption and bad governance? Or, will we also have to resort to joining the queue for a decent meal?

natasha.raheel

Natasha Raheel

A Karachi-based sports reporter for The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • faraz

    How about family planning; four children are too much these days. Recommend

  • Humanity

    My heart aches .. May Allah save this country from the vultures.Recommend

  • Amna

    This is so sad….

    Thanks for writing this…this is something each Pakistani needs to think about and we also need to decide how we will do something about itRecommend

  • Klues

    A Practical Tip: For those who are well off, what we can do is set aside some money to help a family at minimum. It will cost us two three pizzas, but to them it can get weeks of basic food items. Recommend

  • Shahbaz

    Implementation of otiose polices in an outcome of deprived political in-sighted politicians & corrupt Bureaucracy Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    Times are becoming tough…..even tougher for poor class……….Recommend

  • parvez

    A disturbing, hard hitting article and very effectively written.
    I will never forget senior ruling PPP Fauzia Wahab on a TV talk show when asked about the state of the poor, she said in Urdu ” somehow or the other they manage to get by “and she had her famous half smile half smirk on her face.
    I am no economist but I do understand that when the gap between haves and have not becomes untenable the result will be unpleasant for all.Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Thanks Natasha for writing about such a complex situation, complex in a sense that educated middle class dont have an option to go and beg on streets or enjoy charity nor do they have multiple business to run in case of failure.
    One of my friends has recently been appointed as Assistant Director in HEC, apparently this post sounds lucrative but his income is not enough to to make his ends meet in the city like Islamabad, he wants to get himself transferred in Karachi where he could live with his parents and save something.
    This is the dilemma of many educated middle class families who have to think before spending and the saddest part is they can’t even complaint to anyone as they belong to working class and move in respectable society. In Urdu we call it “Safaid Poshi” ki zindagi.Recommend

  • http://www.LiaquatAli.com Liaquat Ali

    @faraz
    What a sad commentary. With what is going on in the land of the pure even if one decides to have no children at all the situation is not going to get better.

    Even if the whole Pakistani nation decides to have no children for the next 20 years. The situation is not going to get better.

    The issue is not population. The issue is mismanagement of resources by some that creates challenges by all.Recommend

  • http://www.LiaquatAli.com Liaquat Ali

    “We had breakfast. Now it’s my sisters’ turn to eat.”

    WOW! Those children are bigger in wisdom and courage than many of us. Recommend

  • Usama Zafar

    @Liaquat Ali:

    The issue is not population. The issue is mismanagement of resources by some that creates challenges by all.

    Of come on….you can’t blame EVERYTHING on corruption. Yes I know there is corruption in every department from top to bottom which has destroyed millions of lives but some things are under your own control as well arent they?? Ever heard of the phrase chaadar dekh kar paon phelao??

    I’m sorry I don’t intend criticize the family for having for having four kids I was seriously shocked when I read this but this still faraz does have a point and this ever increasing population is one major cause of all the issues which we are facing today so don’t just come up with stuff life Even if the whole Pakistani nation decides to have no children for the next 20 years. The situation is not going to get betterRecommend

  • http://www.LiaquatAli.com Liaquat Ali

    @Usama Zafar
    If one goes with your logic of “chaadar dekh kar paon phelao” then what does the single person do in dire circumstances? Extrapolating your logic leaves him with two option: Remove himself from the country or remove himself from life itself. Correct?

    Just to drive my point by using a different serious issue in the world, if you look at the cancer data, the countries with top cancer rates are all developed countries with too much food to eat. http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/headeafrocan-health-death-from-cancer

    When it is pointed to the talking heads in those countries, the argument given by food and pharmaceutical industry supported “experts” is “we show more cancer cases because the less developed countries don’t have proper diagnosis of cancer. People just die without knowing what killed them.” That does not explain why Hong Kong is such a healthy place to be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HealthcareinHongKong

    When one studies what do the developed countries have that the undeveloped countries don’t, one finds processed food, genetically modified food, microwave ovens, too much x-ray testing, lifestyle medicine, junk food, etc.

    Focusing on wrong data because that is what the “experts” are suggesting is not my idea of scholarship. In the case of cancer what needs to be studied is why Germany is curiously absent from the list of the top 16 cancer-prone developed countries.

    Pakistan’s problem is not population. The country is resourceful enough to support the population. The main problem is corruption intertwined with apathy of the ruling class.Recommend

  • http://www.LiaquatAli.com Liaquat Ali

    @Usama Zafar
    If one goes with your logic of “chaadar dekh kar paon phelao” then what does the single person do in dire circumstances? Extrapolating your logic leaves him with two option: Remove himself from the country or remove himself from life itself. Correct?

    Just to drive my point by using a different serious issue in the world, if you look at the cancer data, the countries with top cancer rates are all developed countries with too much food to eat. Google “death from cancer by country”

    When it is pointed to the talking heads in those countries, the argument given by food and pharmaceutical industry supported “experts” is “we show more cancer cases because the less developed countries don’t have proper diagnosis of cancer. People just die without knowing what killed them.” That does not explain why Hong Kong is such a healthy place to be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HealthcareinHong_Kong

    When one studies what do the developed countries have that the undeveloped countries don’t, one finds processed food, genetically modified food, microwave ovens, too much x-ray testing, lifestyle medicine, junk food, etc.

    Focusing on wrong data because that is what the “experts” are suggesting is not my idea of scholarship. In the case of cancer what needs to be studied is why Germany is curiously absent from the list of the top 16 cancer-prone developed countries.

    Pakistan’s problem is not population. The country is resourceful enough to support the population. The main problem is corruption intertwined with apathy of the ruling class.Recommend

  • Sana Hameed Baba

    This only shows how critical family planning is. Why bring a life into the world when they have to have turns for meals.Recommend

  • Amna

    For Saba and others that are talking about family planning:

    Yes, family planning is important especially with the current crisis. But we need to realize things have really changed in Pakistan in the last decade. It is not necessary that when these children were born years ago…that their parents knew feeding them would be such a struggle.

    People that are alive currently need to eat and live. We can not suggest family planning to deal with the current crisis. And four children may seem to be a lot but it is not so much that a children should have to take turns eating. This is a shame for our government that so many people have to live in such a situation. Family planning helps but it is certainly not the only solution and our population is not the root of all our problems.Recommend

  • HIK

    I agree with Amna. Inflation has aggravated several times since we were born. Four kids was normal back then. Recommend