Is poverty alleviation a GAME OF CHANCE? Children are now bet by parents as pawn for poverty alleviation. Just like a raffle draw, the more number of entries you have, the more chances of winning. So your children are your wager to uplift you from poverty?
Listen to what these inconsiderate bastard of fathers say: “pag mas maraming anak, mas malaki ang posibilidad na maiaahon ka sa hirap (the more number of children, the greater chance of having a child that will unburden us from poverty).” Another guy, a farmer said, kung naipasa na ang RHBill, sino ang magiging katulong namin sa pagsasaka (if RH Bill has been passed, how can we have children who will help us tend the farm).” Another absurd statement I hear is “di bale nang hirap sa buhay, basta magkakasama. (it doesn’t matter that we’re hard up in life as long as we are all together).”
If you are poor, and sire a lot of children, there are several things that you deprive your children of.
Being a minimum daily wage earner, it will be lucky if you can bring home 500 pesos for your family, regularly, that is, DAILY. Imagine, with a family of 10 (couple and 8 children), what would a 500 pesos afford them on the table? Rice (carbohydrates) and 2 instant noodles (carbohydrates) for a viand each meal? What about their protein needs – for growth and body tissue repair, and fats, for energy and carriage of vitamins? Nutrients are not only these macronutrients. There are also micronutrients that our body needs. Often than not, these kids are deficient of these too – vitamin A, iron, iodine, leading as well to poor school and academic performance. How many meals/day can 500 pesos afford them? Are these kids well-fed? Often, parents sacrifice, giving their share to their children. But how can a mother, who isn’t eating enough provide a good breastmilk to her nursing child? If the children are going to school, do they bring along snacks? If they are inadequately nourished, how can they learn well at school? How can they be at par with those who eat healthily? How can they cope up if their brain and body are screaming for nutrition? It has been validated by several studies that children who do not eat well during breakfast perform poorly academically. And if so, how can they be educated well, a tool that will help them for their employment in the future?
Will the mother have access to prenatal care every time she gets pregnant? Is she well-nourished every time she gets pregnant? Is her body well rested from the previous pregnancy to carry on another baby? How many of these kids will be delivered in a hospital? Will the parents afford the cost of vaccine that each of these kids need? The government only subsidizes a few and select vaccines.
The most common causes of mortality among under 5 years old are neonatal death (death within 30 days from birth), pneumonia and diarrhea. The latter are two vaccine-preventable diseases, affecting children worst during the 1st 6 months of life. Children who are unable to receive these vaccines, because of high cost, at this most vulnerable period are at increased risk. Just recently, the government announced it will provide rotavirus vaccines, but only to select indigenous people only; itt would still not cover many of our kids most of our indigenous kids.
A child’s health status and nutritional status have direct relationship. And health does not only encompass one’s physical well-being, it also includes his mental faculty. The better nourished a child is, the less sickly he becomes. Protein helps in the patient’s growth. In relation to diseases, protein brings about formation of antibodies needed to combat infection. It is easily understood therefore that a malnourished child is less-equipped when it comes to combatting diseases, and thus is more vulnerable. Compound this fact again with the child lacking vaccines. He has already nil immune system to begin with, then lump it with malnutrition; this now brings the child at a double jeopardy. And when they need hospital care, will they afford it? Often than not, those who need one are from the poor sector. Will they be always at the mercy of random samaritans to be able to survive?
Will they be able to afford quality education a private school can offer? If not, in the government school, what is the quality of education will they imbibe; wIth congested class rooms, abbreviated class periods, rotating in shifts? Physically, their lack of nutrition impairs their academic performances. Their sickliness aggravates their deficiencies. And then, now, this environment as school, who from my humble opinion, isn’t conducive for learning. Can the poor parents afford to send all children to college, with such income, without resorting to working while studying? Of course, I am not saying it is wrong to be a working student, but ideally, academic years should be solely dedicated to studying, or else, the child will easily burn out if he still has to work, especially with the younger generations.
So what have we here in reality? Many of these kids do not finish elementary, few reach high school education and rarely if not nil achieve college degree. Children are forced to help their parents to augment the family income. But when they reach adult and join the labor force, they are disadvantaged, courtesy of their lack of education and frail health. If it is their time to be parents, how many of them will follow their parents’ example? It usually ends up in a vicious cycle, and its sickening.
So what happens now to the wager of their parents? Who among them can indeed uplift their family from poverty, given their disadvantaged background?