Children of a lesser god


Thar has been hit severe draught consecutively for the last five years. But the government of Sindh has failed to resolve the crisis. It was the Supreme Court of Pakistan that has intervened and asked the Sindh government to take steps for ameliorating the suffering of residents of Thar. Three weeks time has been given to a committee to look into the deaths of children caused by malnutrition in Thar. It has been a national dilemma that serious issues are dealt with by those sitting at the helm of affairs by applying naïve approaches instead of finding a permanent solution to longstanding problems. The non-availability of water and recurring droughts have become a permanent feature in Tharparkar but the provincial government in Sindh has failed to save the population in these calamity-hit areas. Thousands of Tharis have been living in utter poverty and fighting for their survival on a daily basis. Among the most daunting challenges, malnutrition and water crisis are hitting the population hard. Infants, being the most vulnerable, are becoming victims of this tragedy as the death toll among children is continually rising.

The deaths are being blamed on the prevailing drought that has led to food shortage and malnutrition. Other factors include malnourishment in mothers and children, lack of immunisation and access to antenatal care and health facilities. The most troubling aspect of this crisis is that the situation has not changed in the desert region for the last three decades. Unfortunately, Thar has the highest under five years mortality rate in Pakistan. Moreover, the lack of medical facilities and potable water have exacerbated the situation in Thar. Mainly the provincial and federal governments are held responsible for the tragedy as they have failed to take required measures to improve maternal and newborn health over the years.

It is not so that the situation of calamity-hit Thar is beyond human control. Measures can be taken to reduce the child mortality rate by initiating nutrition and awareness programmes in drought-hit areas. A more practical and long-lasting solution can be the construction of a canal and establishment of rainwater storage ponds in water scarce areas. In this regard, the concerned authorities can seek international expertise to work on scientific grounds and take measures accordingly. It has become evident that poor social conditions and lack of government interest are causing the increased mortality rate of infants. There should be proper awareness among people, especially in Thar. Public as well as, the government should stand together to get rid of this issue and to save the lives of the innocent ones. More official attention is needed as life in the desert is entirely dependent on seasonal rains that cause droughts and food shortage. Mainly, it is the responsibility of the Sindh government to come to the rescue of these poor souls. It is also an issue for the federal health ministry that it should wake up and fix it at the earliest.