Women and children continue to die in drought-ravaged Tharparkar. Their cries for help, however, seemingly fall on deaf ears as the government remains largely apathetic towards their plight.
The three consecutive years of drought have claimed hundreds of lives, mostly of children, besides increasing several other miseries such as shortage of livelihood, food and livestock for the people. One more child reportedly died in Civil Hospital, Mithi, on Thursday, taking the total death toll in the region for the current year to 519.
The Sindh government claims it has provided the best facilities and equipment to medical centres in the district. Inspections by independent sources have, however, time and again laid bare their claims. Recently, a letter written by the Sindh High Court’s drought inspecting judge, Mian Fayyaz Rabbani, has exposed the poor state of health facilities in the district’s largest government hospital in the tehsil, Civil Hospital, Mithi. The judge particularly highlighted the shortage of specialists and paramedics, as well as the non-existence of a blood bank, burns and orthopaedic wards.
“If these facilities are not available, then what good is this hospital for?” he questioned. He expressed utter surprise that the only general surgeon and physician had been allowed to go on leave, despite the drought situation. Both of them have stayed away from their duties for the last four months.
Civil Hospital, Mithi, is the only hospital equipped with a paediatric ward and, therefore, the place where the highest number of casualties occur. People from far-flung villages of the district bring their children to this hospital for treatment. The posts of urologist, radiologist, medico-legal officer and orthopaedist are also vacant. Through his letter, the judge has asked the health authorities to immediately address these issues.
The relief inspecting judge, who had issued contempt notice to the deputy commissioner, Asif Jameel, raised doubts in his observation about the relief distribution process on Thursday. The judge issued notice to the DC on November 28 indicating that his office has not been provided details of the relief distribution and its schedule. In his reply on Thursday, the DC put the blame on his lower staff saying that he had directed them to fax the details to the judge.
“It has been proved that the administration deliberately avoided sharing the details. I have been expressing doubts about the transparency in the distribution process,” said the judge.
The provincial government claims it is providing free wheat bags of 50 kilogrammes to each of the 259,945 families in the district for a month. The citizens, however, have repeatedly complained of the quantity and delays in the wheat distribution.
Report by Tharparkar district judge
In his report on the relief activities initiated by the central and provincial governments, the Tharparkar district and sessions judge, Syed Inamur Rehman, said that 90 per cent of the area of the district was barren and had no irrigation network. He added that there was no medical officer available at any basic health units in the district and it was necessary to post the medical officers in each BHU to control deaths of minors.
The district and sessions judge reported that over 20 per cent of health and other officers were in the government services on the domicile of Tharparkar district, who were not posted there. He suggested posting all these officers in the district to control the drought situation, as they know the area and its problems.
The judge also suggested distributing dry milk, calcium powder, tonics and tablets in affected areas for both women and the children.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2014.