Children in Pakistan face a variety of serious challenges ranging from malnutrition and poor access to education and health facilities to exploitation in the form of child labour. Their low status in society can leave them victim to daily violence at home and in school as well as to organised trafficking and sexual exploitation. Girls are specially affected as conservative attitudes may impede them attending or finishing school. Recent natural disasters have increased the vulnerability of thousands of children. In 2005 a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 73,000 people, leaving 3.3 million people de homeless.

Issues facing children in Pakistan

• Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be between 350 and 600 per 100,000 live births as compared to 17 per 100,000 live births in the United States.
• One in ten children does not survive their fifth birthday with the majority of deaths due to diarrhoea, pneumonia or vaccine-preventable diseases.
• Thirty per cent of children are chronically malnourished and lack safe water and household sanitation, especially in rural areas. 
• Pakistan spends less than 2.5 per cent of its GDP on the education sector. 
• Just over half of the 19 million children of primary school going age are enrolled in primary education.
• Compared to 58 per cent of boys, there are 48 per cent of girls enrolled in primary school. 
• Just over a third of Pakistani women are literate. 
• An estimated 3.6 million children under the age of 14 work, mostly in exploitative and hazardous labour. 
• The 2005 earthquake destroyed nearly 8,000 schools, 4,000 water schemes and about 80 per cent of health centres.

© UNICEF/PAKA0002/Pasha
Children enjoying a ride on a street swing in Karachi

Activities and Results for Children
• Polio cases have dropped from 1,100 cases in 1997 to 40 in 2006 by vaccinating 95 per cent of targeted children (32 million) at least four times a year.
• More than 28 million children under five are supplemented with vitamin A twice a year.
• By March 2008, Pakistan will have completed a measles campaign to immunize more than 63 million children.
• More than half a million girls were enrolled in school for the first time in 25 UNICEF-assisted districts from 2005 to 2007.
• About 400,000 children (nine of out ten) are enrolled in government primary schools in earthquake-affected areas including more than 21,000 – mostly girls- who had never attended school before. 

• A comprehensive Child Protection Bill drawn up with UNICEF support is currently under government review. When approved it will criminalize abuses and violence against children, raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years and ban corporal punishment.
• Since 2005, more than 38,000 vulnerable children have been provided with protective services through the establishment of drop-in centres and help lines.
• UNICEF is working with the authorities to improve water quality, promote household latrines and hygiene practices and support school-based water and sanitation in focus districts.
• UNICEF has supported the rehabilitation of 400 water schemes serving about 320,000 people in earthquake-affected areas.


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