Death dances in Thar

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The rising death toll of infants in Thar is a serious cause for concern as children are losing battle for survival on a daily basis. In a single day this week a total of nine infants died from complications caused by malnutrition, waterborne diseases and viral infections in drought-hit Thar. Reportedly, the death toll of infants has crossed the figure of 544 this year. 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. Early-age marriages are also held responsible for most of the deaths. 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. In this regard, the concerned authorities can seek international expertise such as from World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate the infants’ deaths on scientific grounds and take measures accordingly. A more practical and long lasting solution can be the construction of a canal and establishment of rainwater storage ponds in water scarce areas. 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. It has been a national dilemma that serious issues are dealt by those sitting at the helm of affairs in our country by applying naïve approaches instead of finding a permanent solution to longstanding problems. Public as well as, the government should stand together to get rid of this issue and to save 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. Government needs to focus on the nutrition of kids and pregnant women in Thar to avoid more fatalities in the vulnerable region.

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