ISLAMABAD: Senator Ateeq Shaikh will raise the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s concerns over the 1,300 child deaths in Tharparkar district over the past month, as reported by the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) in the Senate on Monday.
The MQM senator told The Express Tribune on Sunday that both the federal and provincial governments should be held responsible for failing to address the decades-old issue of infant and child mortality in the drought-prone district.
Faulting the feudal mindset prevalent in remote rural areas in Sindh and Punjab for the latest humanitarian crisis, he said that women and children were badly affected by it.
Citing poverty as the main reason for such deplorable living conditions, he said that lack of public awareness also contributed to the worsening of the situation at the local level.
“Instead of gaining political mileage by building massive infrastructures, the government should focus on addressing this human rights issue,” the lawmaker said.
According to him, poor communication and lack of access to healthcare has further aggravated the problem.
Referring to negligible allocations for human rights in the current fiscal year, Shaikh said that the incumbent government’s priorities did not include human rights. It seemed more interested in developing infrastructure to shore up their bank holdings, he added.
According to the Global Nutrition Report, based on a survey of 193 countries, a majority of children in Pakistan “are malnourished and only a small number is growing up healthy”.
The report released last year, observed that in Pakistan, the percentage of children under five who were not stunted or wasted ranged between 43 and 48 per cent.
According to a Unicef report, two out of every five (44 per cent) children under five years of age are stunted, 32 per cent are underweight and 15 per cent children are suffering from acute malnutrition in Pakistan.
Last year, 45 children below five years of age died in Tharparkar alone on account of malnutrition, pneumonia and lung diseases.
Owing to deficiencies in diet and nutrition, women give birth to malnourished babies and life expectancy is seriously affected in the backward areas of Sindh. Malnutrition across generations continues to threaten life expectancy.
In its annual report released earlier this year, the commission called upon the government to take urgent measures to address food insecurity and nutritional needs of children, especially in Tharparkar district.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2016.