Let parents bring kids to work

ASENIOR doctor has stressed more can be done to help poor children, especially those staying in the nation’s capital, feel safe.

Responding to Unicef Malaysia’s recent report on urban poverty, Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS said he agreed with its recommendation that safe social spaces were needed within the confines of low-cost flats to prevent children from being isolated or even bullied.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had this morning held up the Unicef Malaysia study during her first press conference as deputy prime minister, saying it was “an important report”.

“We need to keep the kids safe. Give them safe social spaces,” said Dr Amar, who is senior consultant paediatrician, head paediatric department, Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun Ipoh.

Having worked with underprivileged children and the Orang Asli community, he added: “Why not let parents bring their kids to work? The Malaysian government advocates the creation of a safe place for children where mothers can breastfeed and there is someone to take care of their children, so they can then continue working.

“But how many companies allow this or have such facilities?”

Dr Amar said a similar principle must apply to those living in poverty, with help from non-governmental organisations and preferably the Malaysian government.

He said countries like Bangladesh provide places for working parents to send children under five or who have yet to start schooling.

“The parents send their kids to be looked after, plus they are given one nutritional meal a day,” said Dr Amar, who heads Clinical Research Centre Perak.

“They get to play and stimulate their brain with some early education by mixing with other children in a safe and secure environment.”

He was responding to the report titled ‘Children Without: A study of urban child poverty and deprivation in low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur’. Published in February, the study involved 966 heads of households and 2,142 children from 17 low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

The findings revealed 75 per cent of parents feel the areas around low-cost flats are unsafe for children, especially at night.

Dr Amar said there is only so much NGOs and organisations such as Unicef Malaysia can do to help poor families.

For the record, the Malaysian government provides food assistance in schools and free education at public schools, access to healthcare and rehabilitation programmes for malnourished children.

The problem, Dr Amar said, is these interventions are not assessed to see if they are effective and whether they need improvement.

“We are a rich country but money sometimes is spent in the wrong places.”

“We don’t seem to be using the money properly for the development of our best or most important resource – our children.”