Patna diary: Children of the urban poor
A city may seem to offer better livelihood options, but for the children of the urban poor, it is a place with poor public facilities that affects their well-being, growth and development. The children in these urban areas often experience a lack of basic amenities- clean water, toilets or a clean, airy home. Living in an unhealthy, unsafe environment, they are subjected to needless violence and exploitation.
Patna has its own story to share. An assessment of the impacts of climate change on the urban poor children shows their increased vulnerability.
With the heat rising, the dumped garbage putrefies faster and pollution occurs. Children being more sensitive suffer from infectious diseases, respiratory problems and viral fever. Dirty drain water overflows, the children play in it exposing them to skin infections. Not just the children, the fields in the outskirts are irrigated by this dirty water, and the food produced is unhealthy.
Open defecation carried out contaminates land and water sources, baring greater health hazards. Diarrhoea deaths are increasing in children in the city. With the open spaces lost, space for any kind of activity, necessary for a child’s growth and development, is forfeited, and physical problems arise. Lack of health activities results in improper vaccination and infant mortality.
Ill health keeps the children away from school. Sometimes it is the schools that close due to weather extremities or water inundation. Shallow hand pumps are easily contaminated, adding to the health burden for students. Either way, the education of a child is disrupted. Many schools lack adequate facilities for drinking water, toilets or even open grounds, affecting the crucial growth and development of a child.
Malnutrition is widespread, and loss of income for daily wage workers due to waterlogging or weather extremities means lesser food for their families and children. With people moving away from farming based activities, the diversity in the food basket has shrivelled, and the children for whom a healthy, nutritious meal is indispensable, lose out.
Water and sanitation
Garbage dumps end up as playgrounds for children and chances of infections increase. Polluted drinking water from shallow hand pumps, broken pipelines and contaminated groundwater, all affects the hygiene and health of the children living in these areas.
Garbage mounds and open drains are common. Such an unsafe environment puts the children at risk. With increased migration to the city and dwindling farming activities, the young are exposed to an unknown, exploitive world very early in life. Their childhood innocence is lost and they are expected to contribute to the family income from a very young age. Education and childhood games, both are easily forgotten as the children are forced to grow up faster.
With the city already experiencing the impact of climate change, the situation will only worsen and the children more deeply affected. Unless minimal access to basic services in these slum and informal areas are ascertained, the children will continue to stay at risk here.
This is the 4th blog based on an excerpt from ‘Children-Focused City Resilience Action Strategy for Patna Urban’, a report published by the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), supported by UNICEF, India.
You may read here the
1st blog ‘Patna diary: How a changing climate is making its presence felt ‘
2nd blog’ Patna diary: A city under stress’
3rd blog ‘Patna diary: Analysing its urban systems’