KARACHI: The parents of seven children who drowned in the Indus River in a village near Thatta on Friday have held the police and health officials responsible for the tragedy, claiming that neither was any help sent despite them reaching out to relevant officials nor were the children provided timely medical aid.
According to Dad Ali Marri, the father of two children among the drowned, they had immediately called the Madadgar-15 police helpline after the mishap but nobody responded.
"Our calls remained unanswered because we are poor. The poor have no voice," he decried. "And at the hospital, too, there was no doctor to attend to our children and save their lives."
He told The Express Tribune that the incident took place around 12pm near Daim Marri village, adding that the fishermen present at the site were able to pull all seven children out of the water within half an hour.
"They [the children] were rushed to the nearest hospital, two kilometres away from the site of the incident," he narrated, adding that by the time they reached the hospital, at least two of the children were alive. "But there was no doctor [to attend to them] and the lower staff and a dispenser at the facility did not have the capability to save them," he said morosely. "There was no immediate medical help available for the children and, eventually, all of them died."
Aggrieved, Ali also complained that they were denied assistance when they requested the hospital staff for an ambulance to transport the bodies back to their village. "They told us that they had run out of fuel for the ambulance," he said.
With no other option, villagers had to take the bodies back in a mini-truck.
"They were all lying in a row. It was painful [to look at them]," said Ali, recalling the dreadful scene.
Ali, who hails from Nawabshah and had been living in Ghurram Bugti in Bin Qasim town, had recently moved to Daim Marri, some 25 kilometres away from Keenjhar Lake and at a distance of 50km from Thatta city. He said that he, along with some of his relatives, had shifted to the village following the lockdown.
"We came here thinking survival would be easier here, but lost seven of our [family's] children in a day," he said.
Besides his children, the drowned include two of his nieces and three nephews.
Lamenting their deaths, he said, "The government must come to the aid of the poor who approach authorities crying for help."
According to Ali, not a single official has contacted them so far. "Only a sub-inspector visited us late in the evening," he said.
However, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPAs Haleem Adil Sheikh and Tahira Dua Bhutto visited the bereaved in Daim Marri village on Saturday morning. They also paid a visit to the hospital where the children were taken.
Expressing grave concern over the state of medical facilities in the province, Sheikh demanded the resignation of Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho.
"Tall claims are made by the government on the floor of the Sindh Assembly, but the condition of Sindh's healthcare systems is very poor," he said while talking to the media. "We are not against the 18th Amendment, but in Sindh, everything is damaged in its name."
Speaking to The Express Tribune later, Sheikh said that at least four children among the deceased were alive when they reached the hospital but there was no doctor. Further confirming Ali's account, he said that the bodies were transported back to the village in a mini-truck, otherwise used for carrying fish.
He claimed the hospital also stocked expired medicines, which were burnt before his arrival. "I visited the spot where the medicines were set on fire," he said, adding that the provincial government had handed over the management of several hospitals to non-governmental organisations but they were not running healthcare facilities properly.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2020.
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