The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), in a bid to reportedly undertake widespread reforms vis-à-vis the safeguard and rearing of orphans, has identified a total of 34,539 orphans across the province.
An extensive province-wide survey was recently carried out by the Social Welfare Department to determine the number of orphans that will be assisted. The highest number — 3,341 — was identified in Peshawar whereas the largest group across KP is of 11 year olds — 3,462.
According to the data after Peshawar, the highest number of orphan children have been found in Kurram tribal district at 3,182, 2,934 in Mansehra, 2,409 in Abbottabad, 2,028 in Haripur, 1,813 in Swat, 1,479 in Mardan, 1,433 in Buner, 1,378 in Khyber tribal district, 1,123 in Nowshera, 1,043 in Karak, 975 in Malakand, 927 in Chitral, 834 in Lower Dir, 814 in Shangla, 779 in Charsadda, 776 in Kohistan, 748 in Bajaur tribal district, 651 in Battagram, 603 in Swabi, 590 in Mohmand tribal district, 584 in Kohat, 551 in Hangu, 517 in Upper Dir, 507 in Lakki Marwat, 492 in North Waziristan tribal district, 377 in DI Khan, 376 in Orakzai tribal district, 372 in Bannu, 353 in South Waziristan tribal district, 334 in Tank, and 216 in Torghar.
As for the children’s ages, they range from one to 16 years with a total of 1,698 children aged 16, 2,222 aged 15, 3,122 aged 14, 3,249 aged 13, 3,348 aged 12, 3,462 aged 11, 3,392 aged 10, 3,000 aged nine, 2,730 aged eight, 2,432 aged seven, 2,058 aged six, an estimated 1,619 aged five, 993 aged four, 554 aged three, 376 aged two and 284 just a year old.
According to government officials involved in the project, they intend to chalk out 20-year plans for each child so he or she receives the utmost care, along with guidance, including quality education and healthcare, so they become useful members of society. Provincial officials also plan to begin consultations with the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Welfare Dr Sania Nishtar.
Around a month ago, the chief minister directed the relevant department to immediately begin work to reopen 12 shelter homes for children that had been previously shut down due to lack of funds. However, despite directions to utilise funds and undertake hiring of staff on a priority basis, there has been no movement on the matter to-date.
The shelter homes in question were based in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, Swat, Bannu, Buner, Abbottabad, Kohat, Lower Dir, Battagram and Chitral districts of KP and had been operated by UNICEF for eight years before being handed over to the provincial government last year.
However, since January 2019, these centres have been dysfunctional despite the provincial finance ministry having earmarked over Rs46 million for their operations.
Child rights activist Imran Takkar criticised the government’s apathy and lack of regard for the welfare of the under-privileged. Disputing the accuracy of the figures gathered by the government in the recent survey, he appreciated the collection of at least some data and stressed that a revised effort must be carried out since the actual number of orphans is much higher. He shared that the government should model its children’s shelters on the lines of those run by the private sector to ensure that the children are provided a wholesome environment.