By tomorrow night, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,800 children will have died from preventable, treatable diarrhea, largely linked to lack of clean water and sanitary conditions.
I’ve written several times about Delhi’s water wars and the struggle for its people to find any water, let alone clean water – (see here and here for a start). Here’s an image from the Kusumpur Pahari slum where that struggle for water is a daily one.
According to a piece in the Guardian, it seems that authorities in Delhi are piloting a project to tackle the city’s enormous waste problem but the solution may affect those whose livelihood depends on it. Currently, waste is sorted manually by an informal army of men, women and children and then passed on to middle-men to sell or recycle. Three new plants (one at Ghazipur) will, it is hoped, sort the 8000 tonnes of Delhi’s daily waste automatically. It is estimated that more than 50,000 people work in this informal sector (known as ‘rag-pickers’) in and around the capital. The work is terrible and dangerous but for a significant section of the transient population of one of the world’s fastest growing cities, it is at least a living.
Over the years, I’ve photographed and written about many of the city’s rag pickers who exist in a twilight, Dickensian world ignored by almost everyone, quietly making the city function in a most human but terrible way.
Of course the statement is nonsense – the NATO propaganda machine in full spin mode – but he actually raises some interesting points.
There is appalling child poverty in Glasgow (as there is in much of the UK) but little from bombs or direct warfare. As Justin Forsyth from the NGO Save the Children put it, one in four children living in Afghanistan will die before they reach the age of five.
“Last year was the deadliest for children since late 2001, with more than a thousand killed because of the conflict” and “a staggering 850 children die every day, many from easily preventable diseases such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, or because they are malnourished”.
Actually, what Sedwill meant was that significant and direct violence was not the greatest risk for (especially) Kabul’s children despite them living on the edge of a live war zone. In other respects of course Kabul children illustrate perfectly the issues of young lives in the Developing World. They are forced by and large to forego what a childhood looks like to us.
A significant issue that divides children in Glasgow and Kabul is work and Afghanistan has a large proportion of working children. The development of the idea of childhood as we know in the West is a product of the Enlightenment and Victorian social reform. For many of the world’s children, work is not a matter of choice and going to school is an unaffordable dream. Families send their children to work through economic necessity not profit. We may find this deeply unpalatable but the world is as it is, not as we wish it to be. In recognition of this situation, there are small scale moves to unionise child workers and give those who have no choice, a voice and some rudimentary protection. The National Movement of Street Boys and Girls in Brazil is one example, there is another in Delhi. A basic conviction of these movements is that through community participation and the development of democratic practice, poverty can be challenged. All of these schemes involve lengthy intervention by social workers but represent a real-life (if partial) solution to the reality of working children.
Here are some pictures from Kabul and Delhi that illustrate the issues…
Amidst all the hullaballoo about building the Commonwealth Games venues in Delhi, there has been much talk of corruption, mismanagement and chaos. All true I’m sure but I just read an interesting article by Amanda Hodge in the Australian who makes a very good point when she says:
“But those who come to Delhi must also remember that a vast number of people in this host city live on less than $2 a day. Dirty toilets, poorly fitted doors, faulty electricity and taps are not an issue for people who have no bathroom, running water or power”.
I couldn’t agree more. Whatever the logic of the Commonwealth Games (a pointless colonial anachronism if ever there was one) you can’t blame the poor who have actually borne the brunt of the construction (in terms of both building and eviction) for not making a job worthy of ‘star athletes’. In that sense (and that sense only) I agree with Lalit Bhanot who said that the unfinished state of some of the flats at the athletes’ village was simply a matter of “differing perceptions”.
I couldn’t care less for the Commonwealth Games (nor for the Olympics coming to the UK for that matter) – all corporate machination as far as I am concerned – but I do hope that people coming to Delhi get to see beyond the show and the cracks and the security. If they got to meet the people on a dollar a day – most of the people of Delhi – that would be a cultural exchange more valuable than any sporting event.