At least six infants have died over the last 24 hours in Sindh’s Tharparker district due to viral infections and malnutrition, hospital sources told a media outlet on Saturday.
The infants breathed their last in Mithi Civil Hospital and other government hospitals in the desert region, raising the toll to 47 this month and more than 155 this year alone, said sources privy to the health department.
The children were admitted to government-run hospitals for medical attention by their parents who complained of lack of facilities, including life-saving drugs.
The parents demanded that proper medical facilities be provided within their respective villages so they are spared the miles-long trip to Mithi town in the desert heat.
Despite repeated attempts, neither the district health officer nor the civil surgeon of Mithi Civil Hospital could be contacted for comment on the unabated deaths of newborns and infants in Thar.
The local health officials were told not to share details with the media after the Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice in April last year of the deaths of five children in Mithi Civil Hospital
Health and nutrition experts, including the CEO of Health and Nutrition Development Society (Hands) Shaikh Dr Tanwer Ahmed ─ whose organisation is working for healthcare development in Thar ─ are of the opinion that malnutrition, poverty, frequent droughts and early marriages among Tharis are the prime factors behind the deaths.
‘Take responsibility’: CJP rejects Sindh govt report on children’s death in Thar
Chief Justice (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday lashed out at Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho for failing to take responsibility for children’s deaths in Tharparkar.
A three-member Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and headed by the chief justice, was hearing a suo motu case regarding the death of children in Thar, who died from malnutrition and measles. He admonished Pechuho, who submitted a report prepared by government doctors to the court, for ridding himself of all responsibility by saying that children die because they are underweight.
“The report makes it look like you don’t have any responsibility at all,” Justice Nisar said at the SC Karachi registry, suggesting that Pechuho “offer his services to another department”.
Sindh health secretary then told the court that 50 per cent of the deaths occurred due to pneumonia and diarrhoea. He also admitted that doctors did not want to work in the region.
Addressing Senator Raza Rabbani, who appeared before the court today, the chief justice said, the judiciary did not want to interfere in executive matters but is “compelled” to do so due to the poor state of affairs.
Referring to a video clip that showed the poor state of a hospital in Larkana, the ruling PPP’s stronghold, the CJP said that he felt “ashamed” and wanted to visit the city to oversee the state of affairs there. He then suggested Senator Rabbani watch that video as well.
The CJP expressed concern over the “numerous health problems in Sindh” and said that hospitals hand over the bodies of children to parents who are left with nothing but grief.
Sindh Advocate General Barrister Zameer Hussain Ghumro’s claim that the government had built an “excellent hospital” in Mithi and distributed free wheat in Thar was dismissed by Justice Shah who said that the wheat was “lost in corruption”.
After a recess, the court rejected the report submitted by Pechuho and ordered the government to form a committee comprising “neutral doctors” working in Aga Khan Hospital or other hospitals of similar stature.