KARACHI: After the deaths of 14 newborn children in the last six days in Tharparkar, the Sindh government has sprung into action.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah announced on Thursday that the budget for Civil Hospital, Mithi, will be doubled from Rs146 million to Rs292 million after health officials told him that they run out of funds during the year.
The facilities in Islamkot and Chachro taluka hospitals will also be upgraded to reduce the burden on Mithi hospital. Shah was addressing a meeting at CM House to review the health crisis in Thar when he issued these orders.
“The newborn babies died due to premature births,” claimed health secretary Saeed Mangnejo, adding that two of the 14 babies died from diarrhoea.
During the meeting, officials denied that there was drought in the desert area of Tharparkar. “People cultivated their traditional crops and have enough grain and fodder,” said Mirpurkhas Division commissioner Shafiq Mahesar.
Since hospitals are located in district and taluka headquarters, transportation from far flung areas takes times, he said, hoping the government will provide 4×4 ambulances with better engine capacity. The chief minister told finance minister Murad Ali Shah to arrange for six 4×4 ambulances for all taluka hospitals and rural health centres.
An MPA from Thar, Dr Mahesh Malani, was invited to the meeting on a special invitation to inform the chief minister that there was no drought in Thar nor were there a lack of health facilities. He did, however, urge Shah to establish the Thar Development Authority to work as an umbrella organisation to address the issues of missing facilities.
Dr Malani pointed out that 100 of the 400 reverse-osmosis plants in Thar are out of order. Shah directed chief secretary Siddique Memon to repair them immediately. “It is the commitment of our leadership to provide clean drinking water to the people of Thar,” said Shah.
The Thar MPA also suggested training female residents in midwifery and hiring them to work at government hospitals. Shah told health minister Jam Mehtab Dahar to implement this idea.
Yet another committee
True to his ways, the chief minister formed yet another committee to address the issue of malnutrition in Thar. The five-member ministerial committee will comprise health minister Dahar, livestock minister Jam Khan Shoro, food minister Syed Nasir Shah, relief and rehabilitation adviser Ali Hassan Hingorjo and Thar MPA Dr Malani. “I will provide you the necessary funds and facilities and you [committee members] will solve the problems without delays,” said Shah.
The committee will also go through the Thar and Kohistan development authorities draft laws. “I want to constitute a board comprising elected representatives and senior government officers to establish the authorities without any further delays,” said Shah.
PML-N rejects Thar committee
Offering condolences to the parents of the newborn babies who died in Thar, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani rejected the committee formed by Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to look into Thar’s issues.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Dr Vankwani, who also heads the Pakistan Hindu Council, termed the committee comprising information adviser Maula Bux Chandio and food minister Nasir Shah as ‘fake’. “This is against parliamentary practice because there is no representative from political parties,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2016.