MITHI: At least 162 children lost their lives in past four months due to malnutrition and other complicated diseases in Tharparkar district of Sindh, officials claim.

District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Arjun Kumar while briefing DC Tharparkar Shahzad Thaheem said that at least 245 kids with serious complications were referred from hospitals within Mithi to different areas in past four months.

The officer claimed that during this period around 39,795 children below the age of five years were brought in medical facilities of the district out of which 4,123 were admitted while 162 children died during treatment, 245 others were referred to different other hospitals of the province.

When contacted by Dawn, DHO Arjun Kumar refused to confirm whether those referred to other hospitals died or survived during treatment as 'department had no record of these children'.

Another official, on condition of anonymity told Dawn that more than 90 per cent of those referred to hospitals in Karachi and Hyderabad died on their way to the hospitals.

Social worker, Dr Sono Khangarani told Dawn that his NGO has already submitted a report regarding forced referrals from Mithi civil hospital and unrecorded deaths of kids and pregnant women to Sindh government.

On the other hand Dr Shahzad Thaheem claimed he was trying his best to further improve the healthcare facilities in Thar adding that medical camps were being set up in remote areas of district to avoid outbreak of water-borne diseases.

It is pertinent to note here that last month, commissioner of Mirpur­khas division had recommended to the Sindh government for declaring Tharparkar a calamity-hit area in view of the reports submitted by the Mirpurkhas deputy commissioner on the basis of a survey conducted by officials of the agriculture research department and Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam.

Earlier, a commission formed on directives of judiciary visited Mithi, Diplo, Islamkot, Chhacchro, Nagarpakar and many other areas to assess the situation leading to the death of a large number of people, mainly newborn and other children under the age of five, amid a drought-like situation.

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Most people complained of unavailability of drinking water which, they said, had become a crisis and been prevailing in the rural areas of the region for years. They also told the commission that most health facilities in Thar had been facing a shortage of doctors, paramedics and medicines, besides essential medical examination facilities.