The Tharparkar drought, which continues after claiming more than 200 lives of children by March this year, is again taking a toll on infants with 47 deaths reported in a month. Health authorities, however, dispute that these deaths are related to the drought and they also question the figure.
The mortality spiral in the desert region re-emerged after a lull of over two months as April brought scanty showers that lasted a few days, turning the weather pleasant. But the government’s relief distribution also ended in May.
“Deaths of children have continued in Thar,” said the Sindh High Court’s relief-inspecting civil judge Mian Fayaz Rabbani. The judge visited Mithi Civil Hospital on Tuesday when three newborns died in the hospital.
Five-month-old Shakila, daughter of Anwar Rahimo, also died in the hospital on Wednesday. Up to 18 of these recent deaths have reportedly occurred in July.
Currently, as many as 40 children are admitted in the paediatrics ward.
Talking to the local reporters, the judge also criticised the provincial government saying that it is not taking serious measures to address the situation. He said he brought several instances of corruption to the government’s notice but it did not take action against any of its officials. “A food inspector who was removed after he was found stealing wheat that was kept for distribution among drought-hit people has been made in charge of the same godown (warehouse) again.”
He said he wrote to the provincial government to take action against the food officials involved in wheat misappropriation but no action has been taken so far.
A total of 259,945 families were to be provided subsidized wheat bags of 50 kilograms each. However, widespread complaints about bags weighing much less than the announced weight and a large number of families being deprived of aid were reported during the distribution.
Meanwhile, some doctors claimed that the recent deaths have nothing to do with the drought. “Most of the infants who have died in the hospital were newborns. Hence, the media reports about malnutrition-related deaths are unfounded,” Dr Sahib Dino Janji, a paediatrician at the Mithi hospital, told The Express Tribune.
The children from across Tharparkar district are brought to his hospital for its better paediatric facilities as the health facilities in the affected area lack child specialists.
The huge district, which is spread over 20,000 square kilometres, has an estimated population of about 1.5 million people who live in scattered and far-off towns and villages. After declaring drought in Tharparkar in early March, the Sindh government announced that it would appoint doctors to fill vacancies and provide adequate health facilities in all parts of the district.
At the time, 181 posts of doctors were vacant in Tharparkar.
Health authorities transferred 27 doctors from different districts to the district in March but less than half of them joined duty. Subsequently, 52 new doctors were appointed on regular jobs with the government offering double the salary, accommodation and other incentives.
However, the newly appointed doctors say they have not been paid for three months, which is affecting their work.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ