MITHI: Adviser to the chief minister on information Maula Bux Chandio has said that if children are dying in Thar because of carelessness of their mothers and underage marriages, the onus for which lies on the area people, and not on the government.

Mr Chandio, who visited the Mithi Civil Hospital on Wednesday along with Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, said at a press conference that media persons should report children’s deaths “without exaggeration”.

Mr Khuhro said that media was depicting a ‘doomsday-like’ situation in Thar but they had found after the visit of the area that the situation on the ground was not so alarming. The situation was well under control in the entire district, he said.

He praised the Sindh government for “having taken prompt action over children’s deaths” and claimed the Mithi Civil Hospital and other health units had greatly improved after concerted efforts by the health concerned on the direction of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the chief minister.

So far, only 19 children had died in Thar hospitals while ‘a few newborns’ might have lost their lives in remote villages on their way to hospitals or while being taken to teaching hospitals of Hyderabad and Karachi, he said.

During the minister’s visit of the hospital, a large number of doctors who were posted in the hospital on contract staged a demonstration and demanded regularlisation of jobs.

The ministers asked them to carry on with their duties but did not give them any assurance about their future.

Later, addressing a public gathering in the town at night, Mr Khuhro said that the Sindh government was making sincere efforts to mitigate sufferings of Thar people and residents of other districts despite many hindrances in its way and conspiracies being hatched against it.

He admitted that it might have been the fault of the health department not to provide quality healthcare facilities in Thar but it was not the fault of the government. It was not fair to blame the government for the poor performance of one department, he said.

Mr Khuhro contended that if the government’s performance had been so poor Thar people would not have voted them again in recently held local government polls and rejected the likes of Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim.

He said that Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were so much concerned about Thar children, who were dying ‘because of early marriages and other social taboos’.

Mr Chandio said that all conspiracies being hatched against the government would be foiled with people’s support. Under a conspiracy, a great hype had been created about Thar situation to make the government look bad in people’s eyes, he said. He said that a five-member committee formed by the Sindh government would not leave any stone unturned to mitigate the sufferings of Thar people. Adviser to the CM Dost Mohammad Rahimoon, Dr Mehesh Malani and other PPP leaders also spoke on the occasion.

Eight more babies die in Thar

Eight more children died of malnutrition, waterborne diseases and other viral diseases in different parts of Thar late on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 52 since Jan 1.

The deaths were reported from villages located near Chelhar, Mithi, Chhachhro, Nagarparkar and Diplo towns. Over 120 more ailing infants were brought to hospitals.

A 15-day-old son of Talib Khoso died on his way back home as he was returning to village after being discharged from the Mithi Civil Hospital.

The dejected father deplored that he was given some medicines by doctors and asked to take his baby home.

Many parents of ailing children complained to journalists in Chhachhro and Nagarparkar towns of an acute lack of facilities and indifference of healthcare officials to their sufferings.

Members of civil society and Thar Bar Association rejected the ministers’ claims about the situation in the desert region and demanded that the federal government immediately take notice of the worsening situation.

They urged the chief justice of the Sindh High Court to give powers to senior civil judge of Mithi, Mian Fayaz Rabbani, to work as relief inspecting judge to monitor relief work.

Former president of Thar Bar Association, Bheerji Lal, said that he had written a letter to the registrar of SHC in November last year requesting him to make Mr Rabbani relief inspecting judge again.

He said that there was a severe lack of healthcare facilities and safe drinking water in the entire district and urged the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and SHC to take notice of the alarming situation in Thar.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2016