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Desperate times

world Updated: Nov 21, 2008 00:45 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times
Muhammad Ibrahim

Eight children who were handed over to a private welfare organisation in Karachi on Tuesday after their parents said they could no longer support them, went home within 24 hours following intervention from the local Karachi government. Unable to face the onslaught of growing poverty, three families of the city’s lower-middle class locality of Korangi handed over their eight children to the respected Edhi Foundation on Tuesday in the hope that their children may get food and schooling.

Muhammad Ibrahim, the grandfather of one of the children said that his son and daughter-in-law took the decision after two years of struggling. “My son is out of a job. The family cannot keep the children any longer and that is why they took this painful decision.”

On Wednesday, the local government announced that it would give jobs to the fathers of those children who have been given over to the welfare foundation. Earlier, Abdus Sattar Edhi, the head of the foundation, told journalists that the three families came to his Mithadar office and simply declared that they were not in a position to feed their children.

“I offered Rs 100,000 to each family but they declined and requested that Edhi Foundation take care of their kids,” Edhi said. “The women said they were unable to pay the rent for their houses because their spouses were jobless,” he added.

“I have been doing social work for the past 61 years but never before in my life have I encountered such poverty when parents are handing over their dear ones to welfare organisations voluntarily,” Edhi said.

He said that the Pakistan government collects a massive amount of Rs 700 billion in lieu of Zakat (is the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one’s wealth to charity) but its major chunk is plundered.

The cases of children being handed over to welfare agencies in Pakistan has registered an increase as of this year. Dr Sono Khangrani, who heads a rural development agency, says that families in Pakistan are finding it hard to make ends meet. “They are pulling out children from school,” he said.

According to a UNDP report, 65.5 per cent of the 160 million population of Pakistan earns less than two dollars a day. People earning less than two dollars a day have been defined as living below the poverty line.