The five Mithi children deaths speak volumes about the amount of health work required. These deaths are not something new or unknown to the people of Thar. In the past as well, people of this region have faced significant difficulties in fighting problems of malnutrition and disease.
Mithi Children Deaths A Challenge To Surmount
The Mithi children deaths show the kind of health challenges faced by the children of Thar. During the year 2017, around 11 thousand children brought to different health facilities in the District. Last year, around 479 children lost their lives.
PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh and CEO of Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS) have urged Sindh Government to take initiatives which would surmount the challenges of malnutrition and disease faced by the children of Thar.
UN Report on Thar’s Humanitarian Crises
A recent UN report on Tharparkar, UmerKot, and Sanghar declared these districts as vulnerable. The report also revealed that if not taken control of the situation, it would quickly become a humanitarian emergency.
No rain in Tharparkar has created a more dangerous situation within the region. The lack of rain or little rainfall results in water scarcity, leading to serious healthcare issues.
Sindh Government had reported that situation in all these three districts not as bad as thought. The Government Officials even claimed it was much better than what it was in 2014 – 15.
Communities in Umerkot and Tharparkar did mono-cropping. However, Sanghar district did not have any Kharif season cropping.
Umerkot appears to be worse affected because of low rainfall in the year 2016. The little rainfall in Umerkot has resulted in reduced crop of millet and guar.
Umerkot, a district mostly irrigated by different water sources other than rain, provided people of the desert areas with other work opportunities.
Government’s Lack of Attention
One reason for Mithi children deaths is government’s lack of funding during the last six months. The government did not provide any financial assistance to these three districts badly impacted by malnutrition. Children and women are mostly affected by the drought conditions.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and Government of Sindh had requested UN to send a joint observation mission to evaluate long-term impacts of the drought on the areas’ food security, health, nutrition, livelihood strategies, and cropping capacity.
No Action Taken on Earlier Studies
The UN studies revealed that the earlier studies conducted by SDNA (Sindh Drought Needs Assessment) reported vulnerabilities which still existed in the old communities. SDNA also forwarded short and long term recommendations to deal with the on-ground realities of Thar.
UN report suggested that Government of Sindh needs to immediately incorporate SDNA recommendations in areas like humanitarian assessment, development projects, and long-term interventions.
Lastly, the report concluded that Government must provide food assistance along with nutrition support for targeted households. The situation also required overall improvements to address issues like food deprivation.
Deadliest year of Tharparkar Children Deaths
The year 2016, unfortunately, proved the deadliest for the infants and children of Tharparkar. Mithi children deaths reflect the continuous neglect taking place in Tharparkar. Around 143 children lost their lives till October 2016. However, the deaths continued with 28 and 44 more children losing their lives in November and December 2016 respectively.