257 children die during four months in Thar as drought persists


MITHI: At least 257 children died of malnutrition and diseases during four months of this year in Thar region as drought condition persist, sources told PPI Tuesday. The new death of today is of a baby of Narain Bheel, resident of village Londhar, who died of malnutrition and diseases at Civil Hospital Mithi, exposing the major hospital’s efficiency and performance. It has become usual for infants to die in this hospital, which is a matter of great concern.

According to a report, over 505 children died in Thar in 2018, 450 in 2017; 479 in 2016 and 398 in 2015. The deaths occur because of various reasons, including pre-term/low birth weight, birth asphyxia, severe pneumonia, neonatal sepsis, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), acute malnutrition with complication, sepsis (under five) and diarrhoea.

“Thar is the most affected area of Sindh by drought as a result, food insecurity is rising with each passing day. The women have become weak due to malnutrition and they give birth to weak babies who too could not get required milk and other needy medicines.  As a result, yearly death toll of children is rising because authorities have failed to save them,” Abudul Rasool, a resident of Mithi told PPI.

Sindh authorities almost seemed surrounded by political issues; hence, they pay low heed towards Thar region. It is matter of great concern that Thar children have been dying in larger proportions as compared to other regions of Sindh on daily basis, he added. Sindh government has kept health sector on top priority but this sector has yet been seemed at low priority, Rasool observed.

A multi-sector needs assessment was carried out by National Disaster Consortium (NDC) led by IOM in collaboration with FAO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, HANDS and ACTED that confirms overall 71 per cent of households are moderately or severely food insecure whereas 32 per cent are severely food insecure. Food consumption for the majority of households is either ‘poor’ or ‘borderline’ with 18 per cent having acceptable, 41 per cent poor and 41 per cent borderline food consumption. The findings suggest that the drought has caused an overall 34 per cent reduction in crop cultivation.

The crop wise reduction in area cultivation was highest in Tharparkar, where cluster bean cultivation was reduced by 92 per cent, millet by 84 per cent, and pulses by 95 per cent; and in Tharparkar and Umerkot in Sindh province, sesame cultivation was reduced by 100 per cent, thus seriously impacting food security and livelihoods. Initial findings from the National Nutrition Survey show that the malnutrition rate among children under five, as well as among pregnant and lactating women in Balochistan, is alarmingly high.

Global acute malnutrition among children under five was 18.6 per cent, above the global nutrition emergency threshold of 15 per cent in every district. Similarly, malnutrition among pregnant women is 37 per cent. Around 20 per cent of acute malnutrition is prevalent among the children and Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW).