Govt urged to focus Budget 2022 on children’s basic needs

NGOs and civil societies must also step in to ensure nobody gets left behind

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by TMR FILE

THE government should focus on better access to food and health as well as online education for children in the upcoming Budget 2022.

NGOs and civil societies must also step in and contribute food and health needs to ensure nobody gets left behind and that every child in Malaysia gets equal access to education.

Yayasan Chow Kit co-founder Datuk Dr Hartini Zainudin (picture) hoped that apart from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, there should also be a ministry focused just on children.

“We need a Children’s Ministry as their needs and rights are unique. They need their own special protections, rights and platform.

“It cannot be lumped with mothers and communities, although they are linked,” the child activist said during a MIDF Conversations event yesterday.

She added that similar to rural children, there are many things that have yet to be improved or addressed for urban children as there have been a lot of misconceptions regarding the urban poor.

“Many would think that as long as you have food, shelter, education, health and water, then you are fine but those are only to survive, not to thrive,” she explained.

Therefore, she said it is important to look at children from both urban and rural areas by opening up a space for them to thrive and find different platforms to express themselves, get support and mentorship.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has made 4,000 orphans as they have had one or both parents dying from Covid-19.

“We are looking at different ways of approaching the issue, re-evaluating our current protection system and maybe consider an alternative childcare system,” Hartini said.

In terms of access to education, she said there is a lot to look at, including mental health support.

Hartini also observed that during the pandemic, people have learned to step up and look out for each other since the government and government-linked companies were not able to do so since they had many other issues to handle.

“The communities and neighbourhoods had stepped up and filled the gaps quickly.

“You cannot have this many people going hungry, losing their jobs and getting left behind in school for almost two years,” she added.

Communities figured out innovative ways like social media campaigns to get the support and services to those in need.

Even mental health issues, which were not often highlighted before, became popular in the last 18 months due to the current situation.

Similarly, Hartini said the public can play a huge role for children in need.

She said everybody needs food and shelter, adults and children alike but being more vulnerable, children need special attention and we must look at what they need and want.