I refer to the news report that states “Struggling with rising prices, some university students skip meals”. It was reported that the rising cost of living has forced university students to forego meals, some eating just once a day. This is indeed a ticking time bomb. These price hikes have affected many low and middle-income families. They barely have enough for survival, having to live from hand to mouth.
As the prices of goods continue to climb, children in these families will be the hardest hit vulnerable group. 3 critical areas of care require immediate attention and action by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet:
Food: Malnutrition is secondary to hunger. Instead of milk, there will be babies being fed with just water and some sugar. Plain white rice may be the only source of food because prices of meat and protein soar beyond reach. From reduced quantity and quality of meals, if no intervention is made by the Federal Government, in the immediate years to come, we will be paying a hefty budget for healthcare of children and their families across the nation.
Healthcare: With many general practitioners reporting that basic paediatric medicine like syrups for children are out of stock, these little ones are suffering in pain. Without money, parents may not be able to seek treatment for their children.
Education: Unfortunately, children’s education will not go unscathed either. As prices rise, less money will be available to families for education purpose. This can be in the form of transportation, books, uniforms and toys among many others. Their education may be interrupted or in some instances removed completely as affected households may require their children’s help in the running of stalls and businesses as paid help is far more costly.
I am afraid that the entire cycle of adverse Covid effects on children is repeating itself now with this latest price surge crisis. Once again, there is no effective Executive voice from the Education Minister Radzi Jidin or Women Minister Rina Harun tasked with looking after the welfare of children.
The least they could do now is to identify the affected children and report this to Parliament when we re-convene our meetings.
This is the least expected of them. Without data, civil societies and various NGOs will not be able to assist meaningfully. Children, especially the younger ones do not have the capacity to speak up, post on social media, write an open letter or show up at a protest. They rely on you and I to be their spokesperson. We do not fail as a nation just because of our lesser investment numbers or economic loss. We fail as a nation when our Ministers’ pockets are thick while our children’s stomach goes thin.