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Drought, poor health-care kills 275 children in Pakistan’s Sindh


ISLAMABAD: At least 275 children have died in the last eleven months due to an unabated drought and lack of health care facilities in a remote Sindh province district, home to thousands of minority Hindus in Pakistan.

The Tharparkar district, close to Indo-Pak border, is mostly a desert area where life depends on rains which were scanty for many months.

The Deputy Commissioner Asif Jameel submitted the list, containing details of children under the age of five, who died between December 2013 and October 2014, to the provincial government on Thursday, the Express Tribune reported.Although the deaths are officially recognised as drought- related, the medical causes of infant mortality have mostly been cited as pneumonia, blood infection, diarrhoea, birth asphyxia and haemorrhagic fever.

Sindh government has been under immense scrutiny over the issue. PPP patron-in-chief Bilawal Zardari Bhutto had issued show cause notices to Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and provincial Deputy Secretary General, Manzoor Hussain Wassan over the mishandling of the crisis.

Four more deaths, including that of a mother, have been reported from Tharparkar in the last two days.

The government has failed to clarify why the mortality rate has not yet subsided in the district.

A seven-member committee of doctors, headed by former Civil Hospital surgeon Jawahar Lal, recently inspected the district and taluka hospitals. However, they refused to share their findings.

“We have noted shortages and will be sending our report to the provincial government,” said Lal, who was removed from his position by Sindh Chief Minister in March this year when the district’s child mortality peaked.

Meanwhile, his replacement at the hospital, Shafqat Dahiri, shrugs off responsibility by reiterating the official stance, “The patients are mostly brought to us when they reach very critical condition.”

Haleem Adil Shaikh, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader who distributed relief goods and supplied water tankers to dozens of villages, said that official negligence had claimed hundreds of lives.

“The government should move beyond making statements and announcements. PPP leaders must conduct enquiries against the health, food and livestock ministers who oversaw the highly flawed calamity response,” he said.

The district administration has earlier submitted a list of 115 children who died between December 2013 and March 2014.

Tharparker has a large Hindu community, who form 35 per cent of its population according to 1998 census.

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