Behind Tharparkar’s death toll

by Naveed Butt

MITHI: Poverty, early marriages, nutrition, preterm births, lack of awareness, education and drought are main reasons of the death of children in desert areas of Tharparkar of Sindh. Weight of most new-born babies, being admitted to District Headquarter Civil Hospital in Mithi for treatment, is 500 grams to two kg. The District Headquarter Civil Hospital in Mithi serves about one million inhabitants of Thar, coming from villages and towns, large and small. There is a facility of 13 ventilators in Mithi Civil Hospital.

The age of girls, whose new-borns babies were admitted in Mithi, are said to be between 14, 16, and 17 years old.

Koshlia, a 16-year old girl, whose baby of 17-day was admitted to the Mithi hospital said that the weight of her baby is one kg. She said that her baby has been in the hospital for the last five days.

The father, 17-year old, said that he has two children and his second new-born baby is admitted to the hospital. He said that his village is 300 Km away from the Mithi hospital. He said that his three-year-old elder son is at home and is being looked after by his grandmother.

The parents of the babies were not only physically weak but looked very poor and in miserable condition. Most of the mothers were under the age of 20.

Dr Shocker Mohan Lal of Mithi Hospital told the journalists of Islamabad who came to visit the hospital that most of preterm babies are admitted to the hospital in serious condition. He said that the main reasons of death of new-born babies are due to no proper family planning, hygienic condition and no proper rest of mothers. He said that a mother has eight to ten children and she looks after her family, cattle and works in the fields. He said that most of mothers of far-flung areas give birth to preterm babies due to lack of proper rest. He said that 50 % preterm babies whose weight from 500 grams to 600 grams is not able to survive.

When asked about diet and food, he said that food is not an issue for mothers.

Answering to another question, he said that maximum 4kg and minimum 500 grams baby have been admitted to the hospital. He said that the chance of survival of 500 to 600 grams of babies are 25 % while there is 50 % chance of survival of 800 grams to one kg and 75% chance of survival of babies whose weight is one kg or above.

Answering to a question, he said that awareness, education, family planning and proper vaccination are very important in far-furlong areas of Tharparkar. He said that there is a need of proper staff and medicines in the dispensaries of the villages of Tharparker. He said that the government is providing vaccine to the hospitals. He said that most of the parents bring their babies in hospital when they are in serious condition.

Thar Desert, the biggest desert of Pakistan, is spread over the geographic region of 19,623 sq. kilometers, and is home to approximately 1.6 million inhabitants, whereas the number of livestock is estimated to be six million.

Livestock and cattle farming is the only source of income for the people of Thar, the underprivileged district of Sindh, but rapid climate change, uncertain weather pattern, and a drought since last three years, have intensified and proved to be a deadly blow to this source of earnings.

Agriculture in Tharparkar is totally dependent on rains and a year without rain could be considered as drought. Although this year in July Thar received massive rains but still it couldn’t relieve the dwellers of Thar from drought which has taken several lives in past three years.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that unfortunately the PPP government is being politically targeted on the issue of Thar. He said that there was also drought before our government and the people had died but they were not highlighted.

He said that the PPP government has distributed free wheat to 1.6 million people of Thar and this process is continuing. He said that death of children is due to early marriage and salty water. He said that we have installed 400 R.O plants for clean drinking water.

Answering to question, he said, “Perception is being created of corruption to destabilise the PPP government. The Sindh government is being treated as step mother.”

Commissioner Mirpurkhas Shafique Mehar briefing the journalists of Islamabad said that as many as 326 children have died in 2014, 398 in 2015 and 29 children till date 20-1-2016. He said that as many as 26 children died in Mithi hospital and 3 in other hospitals. He said that there are several reasons of death of new-born babies including early marriages, multiple pregnancies (birth asphyxia, severe pneumonia, neonatal sepsis, respiratory distress syndrome etc).

The Commissioner admitted that there is need of strong co-ordination system among the various departments. He said that we are trying to improve the co-ordination system among the various departments. He said that there is need to improve the health facilities in Tharparker. He said that there is need to integrate the system.

He said that on the current situation of deaths, the District as well as Divisional Administration is taking serious and immediate action and providing medical treatment. He said that all the BHUs, RHC, THQs and DHQ are providing full medical cover and medicines to the ailing persons.

The Commissioner said that there is no shortage of medicines in health facilities, however there is a short number of ambulances that is why problem and hardship are being faced to shift the children from the remote area to the nearest health facilities. However, 4×4 vehicles are being made available through the NGOs in health facilities in order to provide maximum health coverage.

He said that joint field teams comprising Medical personnel from District Health Office, PPHI and Prominent NGOs at UC level are being constituted. He said that task of the team is to provide aid and referral to nearby DHQ/THQ/ RHC/BHU.

The commissioner said that he took charge of the office only 10 days ago. He said that as many as 125 dispensaries have been established in Tharparker.

Mumtaz Nohrio, a local journalist of Mithi, said while talking to this correspondent that the major source of income of the people are crops and cattle forming.

He said that pregnant women lack nutritious food, necessary for a healthy baby, such as fruits and vegetables and eat bread with red chili due to which their babies are born with abnormalities or susceptibility to diseases and early deaths. He said that many villages are 200 km to 300 km away from Mithi hospital.

About the education, he said that literacy rate of Tharparker is 18 % while 90 girls’ schools are closed due to absence of female teachers. However, he said that the boys’ schools are open and teachers are available.

Mumtaz Nohrio said that this year only 40 % fields were cropped due to lack of rain. He said that the Sindh government distributed seven times wheat (50 Kg per family) in previous two years.

He said that 125 dispensaries were established and 600 staff has been appointed but most dispensaries are dysfunctional.

He said that Tharparkar district is divided into four talukas, Nangarparkar, Chhachhro, Diplo and Mithi, with its headquarters in Mithi city. There are about 2,400 villages in district Tharparkar, which are highly populated with Dalit communities, he said. He said that there is need of smaller dams to stop water wastage during rain and prevent drought in Tharparkar.

Source: Business Recorder