Drought in Tharparkar: Death toll reaches 121 in three months

Published: March 7, 2014
With moderate to low rainfall occurring until late September last year, the government pushed the declaration of state of drought in Thar and provision of relief was thus delayed. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

With moderate to low rainfall occurring until late September last year, the government pushed the declaration of state of drought in Thar and provision of relief was thus delayed. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE


Nearly 121 have died during a drought in Tharparkar in three months, according to the Mithi taluka hospital. While the Sindh government has only confirmed roughly half that number of fatalities, 32 children died in the month of February alone in the area, due to malnutrition. The district has four other talukas, with over 2,000 villages spread across the largest desert region in the country. The effects of drought in these areas are not properly known.

Surgeon Dr Jaur Kumar said 23 deaths had been registered at the Mithi taluka hospital, citing various causes in addition to food deficiency. According to sources, 38 children died of malnutrition in the Mithi taluka hospital in December 2013, and there were 42 deaths in January, 36 in February; there have been five deaths in March thus far. Local representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) are reluctant to share their findings and WHO’s Dr Nasrullah Thebo and Dr Nisar refused to comment on the deaths. These figures are not officially accepted and Dr Kumar, who publicly accepted that 23 deaths had been registered in February, was suspended by the chief minister for failing to cope with the situation.

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The flurry among government officials and the sudden visit of chief minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday to take stock of the situation indicates its severity. “I came here after watching the media reports,” the CM said. “Some 60 children have died in the last two months due to pneumonia and other illnesses,” added Shah, who visited the hospital and inaugurated a subsidized wheat distribution programme.

The provincial government usually declares a state of drought in Thar by September or October when there is low rainfall during and after the monsoon season. However, with moderate to low rainfall occurring until late September last year, the government pushed the announcement forward and provision of relief was thus delayed.

Deputy Commissioner Makhdoom Aqeeluz Zaman admitted that there is a problem to contend with, but deflected responsibility from his administration, saying, “We have seen statistics in the past which show that such incidents happen during droughts.”

According to sources, local administration and health officials described the situation as ‘normal during drought’ while briefing the chief minister. “We expected that the CM would announce a special package and compensation for families whose children have died but he did not even mention how long the subsidized wheat distribution programme will continue,” an official who was at the meeting told The Express Tribune.

As many as 60,000 wheat bags, 25 kilograms each, are slated for distribution in the district. Usually this process starts in November or December and continues for at least three months until spring. Speaking with the media, the chief minister said more wheat would be supplied in case of a shortfall, but did not specify a timeframe for the distribution. Additionally, the district administration owes Rs60 million to transporters responsible for ferrying wheat across the desert region and a local activist pointed out that distribution will not commence until these dues from 2012 and previous years are cleared. “The quantity of wheat to be distributed is too little and too late,” he added. The chief minister said he has taken notice of the transporters’ complaints and said the problem would be addressed.

Locals have seen the numbers of cattle, camels and peacocks whittled down during the drought this year. The chief minister has suspended local livestock officials for their failure to control the situation. Additionally, to the chagrin of the Tharis, Shah has also imposed a ban on the sale of cattle from Thar to other districts for a period of 15 days in view of the deteriorating health of the animals.

Additionally, Pakistan Peoples Party Patron-In-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has directed the Sindh government to launch relief operations in the Thar desert immediately and called for a Special Relief Committee to monitor the situation. Speaking with his Advisor on Minority Affairs Surendar Valasai, who belongs to Thar, he expressed his concern over the deaths of 32 children and said he will take the issue up with Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Safwan
    Mar 7, 2014 - 2:45AM

    Even in middle ages people had better governance, shame on PPP.


  • String theory.
    Mar 7, 2014 - 3:52AM

    Lets have some festivals and show the world we are living in such war torrens environment


  • Saleem
    Mar 7, 2014 - 5:53AM

    If 121 “humans” died because of someone’s negligence then shouldn’t there be a case against those who were responsible for not doing their job? Why there was food in distributions center for these very people and wasn’t distributed?


  • Ahmed
    Mar 7, 2014 - 6:23AM

    but PPP Govt nowadays busy in saving sindh culture through Sindh Festival


  • Dr.Adil Saeed
    Mar 7, 2014 - 8:23AM

    Sindh Gov destroy billion of Rupees on the non sense Sindh festival …at that time dozens of childrens facing death in Thar ….Where was Master Bilawal at that time ,flying kites,dance etc.Who is responsibe ??? 88 years old CM , 21 years Old Crown Prince Bilawal , The PPP ???


  • Asif
    Mar 7, 2014 - 8:59AM

    And the government was busy wasting Billions in Sindh Festival!!


  • Parvez
    Mar 7, 2014 - 12:17PM

    The fact that Bilawal is doing something ( no matter how small ) about it, is appreciable.


  • Ishrat salim
    Mar 7, 2014 - 2:04PM


    For example what ! Is he doing….for that matter what PPP who claims to have power base in Sindh, has done anything to improve the living conditions of the poor people of rural Sindh, who by the way constitutes 53 pct eligible voters without whom they cannot come to power, yet they are the forgetton as soon as they are elected and these poor people continue to live like animals…..Recommend

  • A2Z
    Mar 7, 2014 - 2:48PM

    @Parvez, Bilawal’s party is in the govt due to the votes of people and it is their duty to do something not a gesture of goodwill.Recommend

  • Salman
    Mar 7, 2014 - 2:52PM

    What was he doing? Celebrating Sindh Festival and wasting money on that? Recommend

  • Mustafa Alvi
    Mar 7, 2014 - 3:35PM

    Does anyone know of an NGO working there? I would like to contribute


  • Watchdog
    Mar 7, 2014 - 6:29PM

    But heyyy….. let’s have some Sindh Festival and blow millions of rupees on it…..Recommend

  • Singh
    Mar 7, 2014 - 8:33PM

    I have not seen “Masque” since 60’s in Indian side Punjab.
    (In picture it shows hauling water in “Masque”)


  • Mar 8, 2014 - 8:39AM

    It’s very hard to keep track of things
    when you live, basically, in France.
    It’s a few hours commute for Baby Bhutto
    or his Papa for T.V. face time. But [sigh]
    it has to be done…You can’t tell them to go
    eat cake. [Marie Antoinette tried that with
    bad results]


  • Mar 8, 2014 - 10:17AM

    @Parvez: Are you stand on your head and talking???

    RESIGN, RESIGN, RESIGN, if you know the meaning of HUMAN SUFFERING. These children are the real heroes of the most demeaning word in any dictionary…….”DEMOCRACY.” The Sindh Government can only arrange useless Sindh Festivals and functions for its decrepit CM, and ministers. This is a classic case of “After the deed is done, what should be done with the dagger.” it is too late. Those innocent children are gone and will not come back. Salams to Tharparkar.


  • Mustafa Alvi
    Mar 8, 2014 - 3:35PM

    I would have appreciated billawal’s efforts if this festival was sponcored by the party itself and not the tax payers money.


  • Naeem Khan
    Mar 10, 2014 - 6:47PM

    MNA and MPA of the area are responsible for not
    Dealing with the situation effectively. The C. M. Sindhi should order registration of FIR against the elected representatives as they could not provide protection to their voters.


  • Shame on Govt.
    Mar 11, 2014 - 12:59PM

    Shame on PPP Govt.


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