Islamabad: More than 300 children aged under five have died in Tharparkar, Pakistan's only Hindu majority district, in the last 11 months due to malnutrition and other complications.
The main causes behind the children's death in Tharparkar district include birth asphyxia, pre-term, low birth weight, respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, delivery of babies through traditional birth attendants and diarrhoea, Dawn said today citing a government report.
Tharparkar, a desert district of the country's southern Sindh province along India's Rajasthan state, has been in the grip of drought for a long while.
The report was submitted in the Sindh High Court by the chief secretary after the approval of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah last week.
It classifies the casualties of the children according to their age, which shows 118 children who died were newborn babies (one day age), 82 were between two days to one month and 28 children of 1.5 months to three months and 29 were between eight months and one year of age.
The report said the Thar communities, particularly women, lack awareness of their health concerns and majority of the married couple has an average of eight children.
The report, however, is silent about the lack of proper food in the region, an apparent effort to gloss over the official negligence.
The private media has been highlighting the apathy of provincial authorities to deal with the emergency situation in the area for the last one year.
Instead of recognising its lapses, the government, through the report, blames the Hindu residents for their lack of good food choices.
It also said the vegetables have not requisite energy thus their intake of proteins, energy, fats and other requisite calorific values is relatively lesser to a major extent.
The report examines that the Thari people use chillies and dairy products as their intake for the reasons that they hold huge quantity of livestock and the use of chillies is their traditional pattern.
Thus, another factor for weaknesses in women revolves around the non-consumption of proteins-rich diet as well as following their cultural patterns which increase their weakness to a greater extent.
The report, which mentioned the figures between December last year and November this year, insisted that the diet of the Thar community today was similar to the one they used to take in the past and the antenatal care was missing.
The Thar district is a huge district spread over an area of 22,000 square kilometres desert land with scattered settlements and has ever remained vulnerable to drought situation due to the fact that the district has no irrigation infrastructure and it entirely relies on rainfall.
This vast distance and tough terrain makes it an uphill task for people to access health and civic facilities, which are present in relatively well-settled cities of Thar.
The report said Sindh in general and Thar region in particular did not receive adequate rainfall during the monsoon last year.
During this year's monsoon, only parts of Thar (Mithi and Islamkot) received scattered and somehow heavy rainfall, which minimised the impacts of drought in the region for the time being.
Thus, the drought situation in true terms has actually evolved this year, it said, adding that due to drought condition's proneness, the district encountered multiple issues that adversely impacted the livelihood of the people.
The report mentioned several steps taken by the provincial government to provide relief to the people of Thar, the first and foremost of which was the declaration of the district as calamity affected in February this year which started with focus on free wheat supply, health facilitation, treatment, vaccination of livestock and provision of fodder.