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Qaim dismisses child deaths from Thar famine

Updated November 12, 2014

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Famine has triggered large scale migration of marginalised groups in Thar. – Photo by author
Famine has triggered large scale migration of marginalised groups in Thar. – Photo by author
Famine has triggered large scale migration of marginalised groups in Thar. – Photo by author
Famine has triggered large scale migration of marginalised groups in Thar. – Photo by author

HYDERABAD: Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Wednesday said that deaths of children being reported in Tharparkar are largely on account of maternity related complications and not of hunger or food.

The chief minister was briefing journalists after chairing a special meeting of his provincial cabinet in local circuit house at district headquarters of Mithi.

Senior provincial minister Nisar Khoro, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, Livestock Minsiter Jam Khan Shoro, Health Minister Jam Mahtab Dahar and others were also present.

CM Shah denied that any child died of hunger or food and it was due to maternity stage problems that caused their deaths subsequently in hospitals.

“Pregnancies are handled by unskilled women. Newborns get exposed to different ailments and when such children get seriously ill they are brought to hospitals,” he said and smilingly added: “As to what government has to do with these maternity problems or how can government be blamed for it”.

The CM said that government could not be held responsible for deaths caused by these complications. He, however, added that government should be blamed for deaths of newborns and infants if these occur due to doctors’ negligence in hospital.

He confidently said that Mithi district hospital is the best one in the whole region after Karachi and Hyderabad. It is fully equipped and provide all facilities and even patients from Umerkot, Badin and Mirpurkhas reach this hospital, he added.

Shah urged the media to show some large-heartedness now as it has been very ‘generous’ in its criticism of government’s performance regarding Thar.

He announced a number of measures being taken by the government to address prevailing situation in the desert region of Sindh. He also directed formation of two separate committees that would be headed by concerned provincial ministers with members of Sindh Assembly and media personnel as members.

The measures include nutrition programme for children, establishment of reverse osmosis (ROs) plant, vaccination of livestock, chiller plant in collaboration with some NGO, midwifery training of 665 lady health workers (LHWs), four mobile units for each taluka of the district, appointment of 145 qualified veterinary doctors with 25 belonging to Thar and building of road networks.

The Thar desert is facing drought conditions for the last three years. Famine has triggered large scale migration of marginalised groups like Kolhis, Bheels and Meghwars but the first two communities outnumber Meghwars when it comes to migration to barrage areas.

Such migration of these groups towards barrage to work as farm labour during harvesting of Kharif crops and sowing of Rabi crops is a regular feature annually but only on a limited scale. Current migration is by and large the result of drought that is visiting Thar which didn’t get required rainfall since 2012.

Sindh government is getting flak from opposition parties in and outside the Sindh Assembly while media is also projecting disturbing stories from the area, putting the elderly Shah led Sindh government in an uncomfortable position.

During today’s press conference, CM Shah also said the government was committed to provision of basic facilities to people everywhere. He was quite critical of former Sindh health minister and MQM Coordination Committee member, Dr Saghir Ahmed, saying that he never visited Thar.

“He should have visited Thar when he was minister and apprise himself of the situation. He should have heard from doctors here,” the CM said and added that: “If today Dr Saghir visits Mithi, people will not even recognise him (as if he was health minister previously)”.

He maintained that the health ministry has been with MQM for the last 20 year, adding that Saghir held the health portfolio since 2001 until recently. “We got it [health ministry] only a few weeks back,” he said.

The chief minister disclosed that a nutrition programme was being initiated for children in Tharparkar and a project relating to marketing of milk from Thar has finalised in collaboration with the World Bank.

He also distributed cheques among the affected families in Thar.