Hungry and about to explode

How many of us have seen children with thinning, rough hair with orange hue? They are the children who are trying to clean our car’s windshield at every other signal. It is the boy who is working at the tyre shop in our local gas station. It could be our maid’s child playing in our garage and eating dirt while she is attending to us and our children. These pale, skinny, listless children are all around us – everywhere –they are the malnourished children of our world. 
Pakistan is among thefive top ranked countries that have more than half of the world’s malnourished children, says a report publishedby ‘Save the Children’. One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In a country like Pakistan, the figure is much higher. Stunted growth means their body and brain has failed to develop properly because of malnutrition. About 43.6 per cent children in the country are officially reported stunted and if no concerted action is taken, Pakistan will have the highest percentage of stunted children population in the next 15 years. Apart from coming up with national level plans to deal with this acute shortage and price hike of necessary food items, the most obvious way of dealing with this issue is to have less number of children, yet we keep procreating at an alarming rate with absolutely no planning, hoping that God will provide for them – a fatalistic approach that has harmed the country to no end. 
The world malnutrition and hunger has put the philosophical approach that every child brings its own food to rest; however, it is still considered a valid excuse for having large families. What parents do not realize is that their malnourished children are not only disadvantaged as children, they will remain so as adults and will earn at least 20% less on average than those who have had a healthy childhood.
The country’s population is estimated to go up to 300 million by 2030, and our water resources – necessary for food growth, agricultural, dairy and poultry farming, hygiene and sanitation – are dwindling fast. Pakistan has slid from being a water affluent country to a water scarce country; imagine how bad the situation would be with 120 million additional mouths to feed and even less food & water than we have right now.
22 per cent of the people in Pakistan can never afford to buy staple foods such as meat, milk, or vegetables for their families every week, yet they keep on adding to their families. The policy makers and decision makers have to take notice now and take measures to realistically deal with this issue. Poverty reduction measures like Benazir Income Support Programe alone, can never tackle the population time bomb, it has to be paired with stringent population control actions.
In a country where advocating family planning is still a taboo, we need to address this issue as an emergency. There are sections in the society that take pride in the fact that we will become the most populous Muslim nation soon. What is the point in taking pride in producing world’s biggest group of hungry, malnourished children and adults with limited abilities to fend for themselves and lacking prospects for future growth.
We need to create a society where small families are socially desirable and it can be created through deliberate social engineering by the state and clergy. It has already happened in Iran and Bangladesh, and it can happen in Pakistan as well. 
First published in The Express Tribune
PS: Those who accuse me of being anti PTI should know that this piece was neutral, discussed a clear and present danger and never once mentioned ‘he who cannot be named’ yet one of the most dismissive comment I received on the newspaper website was by a PTI troll who prefers to hide behind the alias of Frank Observer. This is what he wrote: 
I’m sick of the liberals, wealthy and the privileged of this country lecturing the underprivileged on how to lead their life. Just because you had the privilege of western education does not mean that you can treat the ordinary working class of this country as ignorant and brainless individuals who need to be told by the upper class like yourself how many children they should have. I believe one should have as many children as one likes, and it should have no bearing on inequality, poverty and injustice in society. I for one don’t need your expert advise in my personal life. So thanks but no thanks. Also, you are distorting attention from the real root causes of inequality and poverty, which are embedded corruption in society, dishonest, selfish, and incompetent politicians and people like yourself who instead of lecturing the politicians are turning this country into a nanny state by dictating our personal lifes to the extent that we should now listen to you for family planning. Guys, bring down the statusquo in the next general election and vote for Imran Khan.

I rest my case 

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  • I strongly agree with Tazeen…No religion, law or moral standard allows us to be ignorant of our duties to other humans beings especially that of the childern just for self-pride or momentous pleasure. Having as many children as you can nourish, educate and look after is one’s right but having childern without giving a heed to their needs is nothing but a crime that has to be condemned at every level. Erum

  • The same message I saw in your wonderful movie Bol. What is the matter with our countries? Why can’t we see that we have mouths we are unable to feed. At least in cities in India, we have lesser children. But, overall our situation of poverty, malnourished kids, food, water is deeply troubling too.

  • ker di na choti baat!

    look at the flip side; in the next 20 years, europe is going to have an ageing population and you will need physical manpower and resources for semi-skilled jobs, like plumbers, carpenters, sweepers etc. etc.

    those jobs will be filled by these malnurished kids who will benefit the country by proving to be great sources for foreign exchange.

  • well said. I also think we should (1) do Family Planning (2)Planning of water conservation, food production ans NOW FAST. But the govt seems to be busy in other things and population at large still thinks that a mouth that eats also has two hands to work with…
    Allah provides but HE also says be wise and think and ponder….

  • Whoa @hemlock, we really are such a farsighted nation! We know we’ve got to produce plumbers, carpenters, jamadaars so we’re at it. Wah bhai.

    Tazeen, this Prank Observer made for a great example of how and why latex needs to interrupt the vertical transmission of stupidity.

  • very interesting post!!!

  • Don’t rest your case, please!
    Keep fighting for what you believe in and if that belief runs counter to what is fast becoming conventional thinking around you, then you know you are on to something. More power to you!

  • Sadly India and Pakistan continue to be main exploiters of children from poor families

  • Umm, the rest of the world may have to fight the battle of Paani-pat, but the LoTP is blessed – thanks to the ever-ready ‘tsunami’ 😉

    And here are my pearls of wisdom on corruption/kruption:

    ‘Corruption’ is selectively defined, and polish-men, bureau fat cats, babus, clerks, bijinessmen and the most popular of all – poltry-cians, are synonymous with ‘corruption’. The rest are as pure as the driven snow.

    Come to think of it, even in the above, only selective folks are targeted and it is usually to settle personal or political scores. And the luckiest ones among them get the much-coveted Swiss chocolates.

    ‘Corruption’ has come to mean monetary corruption. But that is only a part of the problem and has arisen from the deep-rooted malaises that have eaten into our psyche and social fabric.

    The corruption that we have in our thoughts, minds, hearts, actions (or the lack of it), and in our moral fibre, is far worse – and has given rise to monetary corruption.

    So if ‘corruption’ (also: kruption) rather monetary corruption has to be decreased, the former will have to be dealt with; and that would also include no ‘Ramayan’ in the dark 🙂

  • Our media, etc., have successfully projected this image of the bechara ‘common man’. But the ‘common man’ is a misnomer, a figment of someone’s or a group’s collective imagination – in order to create a stereotype and a mindset. We would hardly come across that kind of ‘common man’ in India or LoTP or anywhere else for that matter.

    It is said that the ‘common man’ – the ‘aam aadmi’ – is suffering due to this person or that ‘system’ or even due to the shenanigans of assorted poltry-cians and black marketers, or even the ‘corrupt’ polish-men, or for that matter anybody who is out to fleece him. Lets look at what this holier-than-thou and long-suffering bechara ‘common man’ does in real life. Littering, peeing, making a nuisance everywhere, talking loudly, honking unnecessarily, a terrible lack of civic sense, over charging, his behaviour in queues and in a traffic jam, being foul mouthed, at work: rumour mongering, back biting, harassing – people weaker than him, be it his subordinates or wife, “eve-teasing”, domestic violence, demanding dowry, torture and bride burning, infanticide and female foetacide, drunken brawl, ogling, staying silent when he should raise his voice or protest, defacing our national monuments and heritage sites, a lack of interest in cultivating good habits or wanting to learn about one’s culture and heritage, and in turn passing it on to the next generation, an affinity for cheap songs and item numbers and playing them as loudly as possible via numerous loudspeakers as and when he wishes.

    The list is endless, really. Of what is in the hands of the so-called ‘common man’ or ‘aam aadmi’ and what that ‘pious and long-suffering’ creature actually does.

    Moral of the story: There is no quick fix!

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