MITHI: Members of the Hindu community in a large number took part in the special prayer on Wednesday for divine help as the unofficial death toll mostly due to malnutrition and water-borne diseases in Tharparkar over the past 48 days cross the 200 mark. The provincial health authorities, however, said the toll had risen to 74 on Wednesday.

The special prayer was organised by a non-governmental organisation, Sindh Rural Partners Organisation (SRPO), which works in the Thar region for minority rights, at a temple in Mithi.

Speaking to worshippers, SRPO activist Zahida Detho, Advocate Qeemat Rai, Advocate Hajani Lunjo and others observed that low-caste Hindus living in the far-flung areas of the desert region were most affected by a serious food and water shortage prevailing in Tharparkar.

Their women, children and livestock were dying as they did not have access to major health facilities in a testing time.

A lack of awareness of malnutrition, viruses and outbreaks in the mostly illiterate lot was aggravating the situation while the provincial government and district administration lacked resources to manage the affair, they observed.

They expressed the hope that realising the ground utility, the government would take all necessary measures on an emergency basis to mitigate sufferings of the poor lot.

They shared the local people’s concern that no serious efforts were being made by the government to ensure availability of food, water and fodder to the worst-hit areas of the district in order to save the lives of ailing Tharis, mostly expecting mothers, newborns and children under the age of five. They observed that the measures taken so far in this regard did not bring about a slight change in the situation.

The speakers also criticised the government for failing to open the closed schools in the region, claiming that 96 per cent of girls schools in the district remained non-functional. They attributed the lack of awareness of health issues in Tharis to the government’s least interest in educating them.

They appealed to the government to address the real issues, which related to health, education and basic amenities, being faced by Tharis and ensure availability of food and water to them for their survival.

Meanwhile, four more deaths of ailing children were reported from different areas of Thar on Wednesday raising the unofficial toll to 203.

Two newborns died at the Mithi Civil Hospital and another one at the Chhachhro rural health centre. The deaths were reported by their fathers, Chandoo Bheel, Abdul Ghaffar and Chetan Bheel. An infant, Lachhmi, daughter of Lachhman Meghwar, died at the Islamkot rural health centre.

Tharparkar District Health Officer Dr Arjun Das insisted that with the fresh deaths, the 48-day toll had risen to 74 and not 203 as being reported by the media.

He claimed that best possible healthcare was being provided to the several hundred children receiving treatment at various government health facilities.

Mirpurkhas Additional Comm­issio­ner Nisar Ahmed chaired a meeting in Mithi on Wednesday to take stock of the situation.

He noted that village women were being trained under a recently introduced programme on how to help expecting women take proper care of herself and their babies after delivery.

Separately, Tharparkar Deputy Commissioner Khuda Dino Shoro, speaking to the media in the city said that the distribution of relief wheat among deserving Thari families was in full swing.

He said the supplies would help overcome the persisting food shortage in the affected areas and control the diseases and deaths relating to malnutrition.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016

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