Struggle for food ends in tragedy

stamp608Eighteen people were suffocated to death during a stampede in Karachi, Pakistan on Monday as poverty-stricken women battled for a free bag of flour being distributed by a philanthropist in Khohri Garden. The dead reportedly include a number of children as well.

‘I would have never come here to get flour if the inflation rate was not as high. The price hike this year has made it difficult for us to feed our large families and the government does not seem to care. Every day I stand in long queues to purchase atta (flour) at Rs10 per kg, but return home empty-handed. Today, when I heard that free flour was being distributed by someone, I immediately rushed to try my luck here as well,’ said Amina, a maid at a government school in Lyari.

‘As soon as I reached out to get a bag of flour, two women jumped on my back and I fell down. The crowd stepped on me and I couldn’t breathe for a while and then fell unconscious. My neighbour brought me to the hospital.’

Amina added that although this is her yearly routine, the turnout of women in bachat bazaars is much more this Ramazan. ‘I don’t just have my family to feed but that of my sisters as well who are widows and live with me. I visit these bachat bazaars every year to buy essentials at subsidised rates and end up making a lot of friends as I stand in a queue.’

Since men are away from home during the day, it is mostly women who end up spending most of their day outside utility stores. When asked if she would think of heading to a free ration stall after Monday’s episode, Amina said: ‘Yes I will. It is the woman’s responsibility to look after the family. And I will do anything to feed my children,
even if I have to risk my life.’

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Causes of Poverty

  • Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).

Today, over 26,500 children died around the world

Around the world, 27–30,000 children die every day. That is equivalent to 1 child dying every 3 seconds, 20 children dying every minute, a 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every week, or 10–11 million children dying every year. Over 50 million children died between 2000 and 2005. The silent killers are poverty, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. In spite of the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.