ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government has expressed the fear that the situation in Mithi of Tharparkar district (Sindh) where five infants have recently died of diseases and malnutrition may further deteriorate if the area does not receive rains in the coming monsoon season.
In a report submitted before the Supreme Court in compliance with a suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on the death of five infants at the Mithi Civil Hospital, Health Secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho stated that the area was mainly vulnerable due to water scarcity, lack of healthcare facilities and remoteness. He said the situation was same as vulnerability still existed in the communities of the area.
The notice was taken on a news report published in a section of the media that more than 11,000 ailing children had been brought to six health facilities in Mithi district for treatment since the beginning of this year and at least five infants had lost their lives due to malnutrition and diseases at the Civil Hospital, raising this year’s death toll to 64.
Deaths of five infants in Mithi hospital were not due to malnutrition, Sindh govt report tells SC
The report stated that problems pertaining to a water crisis, healthcare shortcomings and remoteness were the most crucial factors and that the parents had complained of lack of facilities at hospitals.
The total population of Tharparkar district is 1,308,368 of which 217,659 are infants/children under the age of five years.
According to the report of the Tharparkar’s district health officer which was submitted before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, none of the five infants died due to malnutrition, instead they expired due to causes like neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, birth asphyxia and pre-term / low birth weight.
In 2016, total deaths of children in Tharparkar were 479 of which 404 died in the district headquarters Mithi whereas 87 infants died in Mithi in the first quarter of 2017 out of the total of 98 in the district.
The report conceded that the area of Mithi received limited assistance over the past six months due to which no action was taken on the recommendations of the United Nations Observation Mission pertaining to Tharparkar, Umerkot and Sanghar districts.
The health department’s report suggested short-term and long-terms steps being taken by the Sindh government to improve health services in Tharparkar.
In the short-term steps, the report highlighted the need of increasing the number of lady health workers, lady health supervisors and community midwives along with mobility support to cover the uncovered areas.
The short-term steps also called for providing conditional cash transfers to below poverty line population for seeking quality maternal new born child health services under the accelerated action plan for reduction of stunting.
Increase of social mobilisation activities through NGOs for increase of demand creation from community is an ongoing process and is being done by the Sindh health department through HANDS (Health and Nutrition Development Society) in addition to recruitments of special cadre like gynecologists, paeds and anesthetist on attractive packages.
Likewise, the long-term steps suggest multi-sectoral approach for the development in order to increase socio-economic conditions, infrastructure up-gradation and drought area specific health policy formation.
“There is still much to be done in District Tharparkar,” the report admitted, adding that the health department was trying hard to address all health related issues in the area to make it at par with other settled districts of Sindh.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2017