MITHI: The ongoing human tragedy of deaths of children in Thar shows no signs of abating, despite tall claims by the government that it has provided the best healthcare facilities, as eight more babies died of malnutrition and waterborne diseases over the past two days.

Four children died on Saturday and as many died a day before. Of them, a six-month-old baby Kavita and two other newborn babies died at the Mithi Civil Hospital and five-month-old Pirbhu died at rural health centre in Islamkot on Saturday.

On Friday, a minor girl Rasheeda who was discharged from a government hospital in Kaloi town died before reaching home, six-month-old Achhi Bheel died of pneumonia in Dhandi village near Islamkot, two-year-old Shahnaz of Sanbhayani village near Chhachhro died on her way to a hospital and a newborn baby girl died of pneumonia near Dahli town.

The death toll, since Jan 1, has risen to over 190 children, according to information gathered by journalists from parents, villagers and elected local bodies representatives.

Dr Mohammad Iqbal Bhurgari, civil surgeon at the Mithi Civil Hospital, claimed that only 44 children had died in January and 16 more in the current month at the hospital.

Asked about the fate of more than 80 children the hospital referred to other cities, Dr Bhurgari said he had no information whether they survived or died.

Tharparkar DHO Dr Arjun Kumar said that 66 children had died at the hospitals of Mithi, Nagarparkar and Chhachhro while over 22,000 children had so far been brought to hospitals since Jan 1.

Many villagers complained that the government had not yet taken any step to open dispensaries in their areas.

According to HANDS, an NGO, mortality rate remained unchanged as Tharparkar entered its fourth consecutive year of drought.

HANDS CEO Dr Shaikh Tanweer Ahmed and Nadeem Ahmed Wagan told journalists here the situation contributed to poor health of women and children, which was taking a heavy toll on their lives.

The NGO has prepared an analytical report titled “Tharparkar Situation Analysis — January 2016” which assesses the current situation and state of vulnerability of drought affected communities in Tharparkar, and changes over the time since it carried out the first situation assessment in March 2014, he said.

Govt responsible for deaths, says Marvi

Marvi Memon, chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and minister of state, said at a meet-the-press event at Badin Press Club on Saturday that children were dying in Thar because of malnutrition and Sindh government’s callousness.

She said that she was going to Thar to express condolences to the BISP beneficiary families on the death of their children and would then submit a report to the prime minister on the alarming situation in the desert area.

She said that prime minister and the federal minister for finance had talked to the World Food Program, which would soon initiate activities in Thar to help the government reduce malnutrition among the poor population.

She said that to save people from malnutrition BISP had increased basic stipend of families from Rs4,500 to Rs4,700. BISP had created a website where families could upload pictures of their products like handmade embroidery, artwork etc and officials had been instructed to purchase the products and pay the amount through BISP installments, she said.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2016

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