With the death toll of infants soaring to 57 in 45 days in Tharparkar, officials at the largest state-run hospital in the desert district complain about the absence of adequate health facilities.
Four more deaths were reported on Wednesday including two newborns, one eight-year-old boy and a one-and-a-half-year infant. The drought-hit region witnessed an unusually high child mortality rate during four months ending in March this year.
Despite this alarming situation, medics rarely show up for their official duty. During his visit to the Civil Hospital Mithi, Justice Feroze Hassan observed absence of doctors during duty hours. He said the doctors had their private clinics near the hospital.
Briefing Justice Froze, District Health Officer Dr Abdul Jalil Memon blamed the paucity of resources for problems at the hospital. “We don’t even have funds to buy fuel for generators and ambulances,” he said.
Medical Superintendent Dr Ram Ratan said the hospital lacked surgeons and specialists. He also pointed out the shortage of ambulances that the facility faces.
During the peak of drought in March, the Sindh government had taken steps to address the issues. Subsequently, 68 new doctors were either appointed or moved from other districts to fill in the 182 vacant posts in the district. Though these doctors were promised a pay-raise and other perks, the government failed to pay their basic salaries since they joined three months ago.
The provincial health authorities imposed a health emergency in Tharparkar on Monday to tackle the new wave of illnesses that has caused deaths of infants and children.
However, a doctor at the Civil Hospital, who did not want to be named, told The Express Tribune that effective measures have not been taken to deal with the factors responsible for malnutrition of children in the region.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Asif Ikram submitted a draft proposal to Commissioner Mirpurkhas on Wednesday, recommending measures to deal with drought.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.