Of the many things missing in Tharparkar, there is also a contingency plan that, if present, would have made sure the desert did not suffer from a drought every year.
There has neither been any provincial emergency operation centre nor a provincial or district disaster management authority operational in the area, pointed out an assessment report released on Friday by the Participatory Development Initiatives, an organisation working on advocacy and research in the province. “The provincial government along with other stakeholders of the Sindh government should plan and adopt drought-mitigation and risk-reduction strategies to further avoid the huge losses coming out of the continuous drought in the area,” the report recommended.
The report hinted that more deaths, especially of children in the remote rural areas of Tharparkar region, are feared due to malnutrition. It pointed out that the government’s relief activities are mainly confined to the main towns and their peripheries. Meanwhile, a majority of the remote areas are still without relief.
According to the report, the drought has taken its toll on human lives as the number of those who died from drought-related diseases and hunger in the Tharparkar district has reached 191, 59 per cent of whom are children. The current situation is also not very favourable for the people and the livestock. More than 66,229 cattles have been affected with epidemic diseases and 2,044 have died.
Discussing the damages leading to food insecurity, the report disclosed that all the livelihood options of the drought-hit families are at stake. “In the current situation, agriculture has met losses of 79 per cent and livestock 69 per cent, respectively, in terms of domestic crop failure and epidemic diseases that led to animal deaths and low yields.”
Referring to United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the report said that the families in 166 villages have left their homes to seek livelihoods in nearby districts while, in 148 villages, the families are planning to move to avoid precarious conditions that may endanger their lives. The UN office had visited 322 villages in district Tharparkar during their assessment.
Diseases are another problem facing the district. “Nearly 87 per cent of the drought-hit areas are facing diarrhoea, 82 per cent are suffering from fever and 82 per cent from malaria,” the report said.
During the assessment, it was found that drought-affected population also does not have health facilities nearby. Over 60 per cent of the respondents said the nearest health facility is at a distance of more than five kilometres.
The report revealed that water shortage is the key cause of the miseries and diseases in the village. Due to a lack of safe drinking water, a majority of the villagers are kidney patients. Similarly, the livestock is also dying due to a lack of proper drinking water. Unfortunately, the ground water in a majority of the areas in Thar is saline, which is unfit for human consumption.
“Currently, nine percent of the children at the district hospitals are severely malnourished,” the report found. Even elderly residents and women are suffering from several diseases. Several cases have been referred to Hyderabad and Karachi but without proper records.
In the end, the report recommended the government set up a provincial emergency operation centre along the patterns of Khyber-Pakhunkhwa.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2014.