Disturbing reports of deaths of children pouring in from Sindh’s Tharparker region have put the spotlight back on the poor healthcare facilities and government authorities’ apathy and unwillingness to take this long-pending issue head on, which took such a heavy toll of infant lives in the remote area. According to latest reports three more children including two newborns and a one-year-old child have passed away in the past 18 hours. The recent deaths of three children have took the death toll in Tharparker to nine for this month and 375 this year. According to the health department, every year 1,500 children die due to malnutrition, infections and lack of proper medical facilities in the remote region. A report released by the United Nation’s Children Fund in April stated that Pakistan is among countries with the highest infant mortality rates, with 22 infants dying before turning one month old. Among these countries, eight are in Africa and two in Asia, including Afghanistan which is ranked third.
Tharparkar District one of the twenty nine districts of Sindh province has the lowest Human Development Index of all the districts in Sindh. The lack of basic amenities particularly the non availability of clean drinking water remains to be one of the major problems faced by the people of the area. Another study, conducted by a local NGO, revealed that more than 50 per cent of the population using water with total dissolved solvents of over 5,000mg per litre (mg/l) found over 80 per cent of groundwater in the district is unhealthy for human consumption. Tharparkar is referred as the most food-insecure area where 72.40 per cent of the people are poor and categorised as the second-most poverty-stricken district, and fourth lowest district of the country.
It is quite ironic that the people at the helm of affairs have not been able to resolve this crisis like situation that has been going on in the region for past couple of years. So far no concrete steps were taken to improve the lives of poor citizens and even nobody seems willing to take the responsibility. Explanations and reports are sought every now but there is no change on the ground. How long will the innocent children die of malnutrition, is there any body to give solace to wailing and grieving mothers of Thar who are helplessly watching their children dying in their laps? It is not simply enough to say that the children are dying due to malnutrition. But the question is that what steps the provincial or federal government has taken to address the fundamental problems of malnutrition, hunger, and poverty. And what steps the government has taken to save the lives of innocent children who fall ill due to waterborne diseases. Though it is a complex problem but the government in collaboration with international aid agencies can launch different programs besides discussing the ways and means of reducing malnutrition in a coordinated manner. Concerted efforts, both at provincial and federal level, are needed to address this problem. Someone has rightly said that Tharparkar only makes news when there is a drought or deaths, but given the alarming situation in the area it is high time that the government and authorities at the helm of affairs should come out of the hibernation state and devise medium to long-term policies and plans so that people of the drought-hit region could be protected from food insecurity, hunger, poverty, malnutrition and health hazards. Moreover the NGO’s and specially the local and international charity organisations should come forward play their much needed role to help out the poor and economically downtrodden people of the region.