Four more Thar newborns die from drought-related causes


A woman comforting her child at a hospital in Mithi, Tharparkar. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
A woman comforting her child at a hospital in Mithi, Tharparkar. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

UMERKOT: Unrelenting drought-like conditions and delay in rains in Thar have caused deaths of four more newborn babies over the past 24 hours, raising the death toll of children to 57 during 45 days in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts.

About 388 children died between March and May this year though the government disputed the figure. It has, however, not yet taken adequate measures to resolve the shortage of food and water, major cause of newborns’ deaths.

Emergency has been declared in hospitals of all the talukas of Tharparkar district after Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the reports of children’s deaths and directed the Mirpurkhas commissioner to declare emergency in Tharparkar, suspend leave of absence of staff and ensure provision of health facilities on a war footing.

A doctor told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the children’s deaths continued to occur because pregnant Thari women had become anaemic after not being able to eat a balanced diet.

Death toll reaches 57 in 45 days

“They give birth to weak babies while they themselves are unable to meet milk requirements of their suckling babies, which makes children vulnerable to diseases and ultimately they die,” said the doctor.

Meanwhile, a judge of the Sindh High Court, Justice Syed Feroz Hassan, accompanied by the district and sessions judge of Mithi and relief inspecting judge Mian Fayaz Rabbani visited the Mithi Civil Hospital.

He inspected health facilities and budget, pointed out flaws and asked about required assistance to doctors and hospital administration.

He expressed anger over the government doctors’ running private clinics during duty hours and took serious notice of delay in release of salaries to newly recruited doctors who had been hired to cope with drought-like conditions.

Thar drought situation termed alarming

District Health Officer Dr Abdul Jaleel and Medical Superintendent Ram Ratan informed the judge that no special budget had been released for the hospital because of and in the wake of the drought. The hospital did not even have funds for buying fuel for the generator and ambulances, they complained.

The hospital had become overcrowded because of drought while a number of posts of surgeons, specialists and gynaecologists were still vacant, they said.

Published in Dawn, July 24th , 2014