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Death of 3,000 children in Thar: Sindh govt must wake up from the deep slumber

Due to the negligence of authorities, the people of Thar used to face severe health hazard issues such as waterborne diseases, inadequate health facilities, food crisis and lack of basic infrastructure. Apart from it, poverty, population growth, lack of clean drinking water, unemployment and high illiteracy had trapped the region in a state of catastrophe.

The population of Tharparkar district is approximately 1.65 million and Thar is spread over both sides of India and Pakistan where life always remained tough because of the non-availability of basic facilities of life over the years.

Thar — the Future of Pakistan

The population of Tharparkar district is around 1.65 million and Thar is spread over both sides of India and Pakistan where life always remained hard because of the non-availability of basic needs of life. Among the 29 districts of Sindh in Pakistan, Tharparkar is the largest, covering 19,638 square kilometers of land, with Mithi as its capital.

Part of a larger desert area that extends into Rajasthan in India, this area principally consists of barren tracts of sand dunes covered with thorny bushes. Thar also has a very divergent colony of traditional tribes but they share many common characteristics that seem to bring together their pasts.

Humanitarian crisis inThar

The principal resource of livelihood in Thar is based on livestock and agriculture. Millet is the chief crop. But due to a severe shortage of rain, the area suffers from occasional bouts of drought and famine because of which the people, as well as cattle, have to put up with an extremely low supply of food.

This problem has been recurring since 2012, with pastures and wells drying up, leaving Tharis with a dearth of food. The social life of people is also restricted due to a lack of enough water. This particularly affects women, who are responsible for carrying water. Young children often have to forgo education due to the responsibility of fetching water

800 children died in Thar this year

Children’s death due to malnutrition and epidemics in the Tharparkar district is nothing new. Death is a regular visitor at the doors of Tharparkar’s mothers. More than 800 children have died due to malnutrition and other diseases in Tharparkar this year, as a result of which the total number of deaths in five years has crossed 3,000.

According to the statistics released by the health department, 800 children have died in Thar this year while the number of child deaths in the last five years has been more than 3,000.

The Department of Health says the 3,000 deaths among children over a five-year period include those who died during childbirth or before birth, while the number of women who die during this period is alarming.

Sindh govt failed to resolve the overall issues

This state of affairs has been addressed by the government of Sindh by adopting the most apathetic attitude towards the people of the area. The PPP government has completely failed to resolve the overall issues faced by Sindh, let alone the drought-stricken Thar.

Interestingly, this political party has been in power since the 1970s and there are still no plans in the offing to uplift the rural areas. It is not only a matter of shame for a province to have a population that is suffering from malnutrition and death on account of food shortage; it is also a matter of shame for the entire country.

It is also disgraceful that the PPP-led Sindh government has not done anything to improve the condition of Thar despite tall claims and media statements. The premature death of children under the age of five is, unfortunately, a usual occurrence in the area. 

Under the circumstance, when a province is unable to grapple with managing its human rights, it becomes incumbent upon the federation to take matters into its own hands.

There should not be any debate that whether this disaster is Provincial Subject or Federal Subject but the Debate should be that how to get ready this populace for such natural disasters and build their resilience against such climate change happenings.

Steps needed to counter these issues

It is time the provincial and federal governments turned their attention to this forsaken area. In the short term, governments need to provide Tharis with instant medical attention.

In the long term, the provision of a reliable supply of clean drinking water to the people and the establishment of functioning medical facilities in Thar must be set up as the priority of the provincial and federal governments.

Especially, the Sindh government must come forward on an emergency basis and assist the Thari people and prevent them from dying of Hunger and Thirst. The Thari people must be helped on the basis of Humanitarian Grounds and as per the citizenry rights assured by the Constitution of Pakistan.

The UN Agencies including UNFPA, Unicef, WFO, UNDP and WHO must come forward to help the Sindh government through strict monitoring in this natural calamity.

The Development Partners and Philanthropists must come forward on the same page to devise a comprehensive disaster management policy that may be implemented to prepare the people of Thar against future natural disasters and strengthen their resilience. 

The blame game should be ended and the center must announce the instant Relief package for the  People of the area and should work with the Sindh government to help improve the living conditions of the natives and make sustainable living policies for the area.