–Sindh health secy says 468 children have died in drought-hit Tharparkar this year
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday questioned the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government as to the measures it had taken to eradicate drought and child mortality due to malnutrition in Thar, expressing disapproval of the Sindh health secretary’s report.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the case in which major officials of the province, including the chief secretary, advocate general, secretary finance and other senior officials were summoned.
“Why has the issue of malnutrition in Tharparkar not been resolved yet?” the CJP asked. The additional advocate general responded that a report has been submitted to which the CJP angrily said, “we had asked for a solution not a report”.
During the hearing, Sindh Secretary Health Dr Usman Chachar claimed that the situation in the province has seen a “vast improvement” and was actually better compared to other parts of the country.
“How long have deaths been occurring in the region?” the CJP inquired. The health secretary responded that the death toll in the drought-stricken region has risen in the last three to four years.
“This year, 486 children have died,” Chachar added, stating that most of the deaths have been of children aged one to 29 days. He added that a majority of the deaths occurred at Civil Hospital Mithi and the primary cause is a shortage of food and absence of family planning.
CJP also questioned the additional advocate general as to the wheat sent for the aid of people in Tharparkar, saying grains of sand were found in the sacks.
“Who was responsible to draft a policy to combat famine and provide food to people?”
Member of National Assembly (MNA) Ramesh Kumar was called to court and questioned about the situation in Tharparkar.
Kumar told the court that corruption was rampant in the district while land was being encroached for coal. “Members of assemblies also had their names in lists of people deserving food aid,” he added.
Moreover, he added that drug peddlers were roaming freely in Tharparkar while the coal power project was not functional despite inauguration.
Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan, who was asked to assist the bench, stated that the birth of only 20 per cent of newborns is being registered in the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) database in the region.
“A forensic audit of the health department’s spending should be conducted.”
Justice Nisar directed the chief secretary to draft a relevant policy and provide food and water in Tharparkar on an urgent basis.
He asked the chief minister and health secretary why people were dying in the district and summoned advocate general, health, finance and education secretaries in the next hearing scheduled for Thursday.