Drought in Tharparkar: Revised population data puts famine toll higher

Relief efforts amped up; some doctors refuse transfer to area.

Z Ali March 13, 2014
This photo taken on March 10, 2014 shows villager families tending to their sick children, affected by a famine, at a hospital in Mithi, the capital of the Tharparkar district around 300 kilometres from Karachi. PHOTO: AFP


An official estimate of the number of people affected by famine in Tharparkar has escalated after Sindh government revised population estimates from 175,000 families to 259,945 families in the district. The previous count was based on the 1998 population census. Speaking with the media in Mithi on Wednesday, the Sindh government’s coordinator on relief Taj Haider and MPA Mahesh Malani confirmed the figures.

The revised figures were announced on the heels of a number of complaints by locals that several people are being denied subsidized wheat. The provincial government is distributing 120,000 wheat bags of 50 kilogrammes each to families in the district and subsidized wheat is being sold at half the market price.

Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who visited Tharparkar for the third time in five days on Wednesday, said that 48,000 wheat bags have been distributed so far. “I am personally monitoring the relief activities,” he said. “We will not allow any negligence.”

The chief minister has formed two committees to conduct an inquiry against officials whose negligence enabled the situation to reach a crisis point. He said action would be taken against those responsible. “I hope Makhdoom Amin Fahim now knows who is responsible for this negligence,” the CM said while responding to a question in reference to MNA Makhdoom Amin Fahim’s sons. One son, Makhdoom Aqeel uz Zaman was deputy commissioner of Tharparkar and another, Makhdoom Jameel uz Zaman, was the provincial relief minister – he was removed from his position, along with Relief Commissioner Lala Fazal-ur-Rehman, on Tuesday night. Additionally, Fahim’s son Makhdoom Naimatullah is an elected MPA from Tharpakar. The Sarwari Jamaat, led by the family, responded by issuing a press release in Matiari blaming the chief minister for being responsible for the situation in Tharparkar.

Meanwhile, people in the district continue to flock to Mithi’s Civil Hospital. 37 children from various parts of the district were admitted overnight, according to paediatrician Dr Dileep. The NDMA announced that 40 medics and paramedics, with medical supplies, have travelled from Hyderabad to the area and the provincial government has released Rs30 million for the District Hospital Mithi. Additionally, 10 doctors have been deputed from neighbouring districts for the provision of emergency services. However, district health officer Abdul Jalil Bhurgari said there is still a dire need to address the paucity of trained personnel at Tharparkar’s health facilities as doctors from urban areas in Sindh are unwilling to lend a hand. “The health department has transferred nine doctors to Tharparkar so far, but only three have joined,” Bhurgari said, adding that ‘six others are trying to prevent their posting here’.

According to unofficial estimates, between 135 and 200 children have died in Tharparkar over the last three months; most of these deaths have been attributed to malnourishment. Locals say the death toll is higher than being reported as the number of children who die in the district’s rural areas – home to over 90 per cent of Tharparkar, with more than 2,350 villages – are not included in official or unofficial tolls.

The NDMA announced that relief efforts are gathering steam. The provincial government has also announced compensation of Rs200,000 for families who have lost their children during the crisis.

However, some say efforts are being concentrated in one area, leaving others out. “So far the media and government’s attention is focused on Mithi and its surrounding villages,” said Pratab Shevani, a local activist. “We are still exploring the situation in other areas further away,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2014.


Hammad | 10 years ago | Reply

@dufferuddin: Yea let's just bury our heads in the sand. Go watch ptv.

dufferuddin | 10 years ago | Reply

OH!, Pls do not publish this news. It will defame Pakistan in the world and demoralise the people/forces.

This is conspiracy of Indian Rajasthan (ruled by BJP) to dry-up all the water from pakistani side of Thar desert while the Indian side of Thar desert is fully green now (green revolution). See, they have stolen the green color also from pakisthani flag. blah, blah.......

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