Thar’s Drought or Our Intellectual Drought?

Painting death with pen in Thar

Painting death with pen in Thar

Reports in the media about a virtual famine in Tharparkar and resultant deaths, especially of children due to malnutrition or negligence, and about desperate outward migration of residents have caused widespread concern and prompted governmental, judicial, civil and military responses. Seemingly the situation is over rated and due to big media players even government is reluctant and on back foot to show that the developed scenario misrepresents a substantial part of reality.

I-                    The drought declaration time in Thar is August, but neither government nor media found it serious due to the reason that there was plentiful rainfall in Nagarparkar and scattered, uneven rainfall in other parts of district.

II-                  Reasons why the issue of famine was covered in Media with an overwhelming hype are implicit. It was due to a clash between some bureaucrats in health department and some of their friends in media, as well as a joint plan of some local politicians and NGOs to link the deaths of children with drought/ famine, so that they could get some funds in the name of relief and embezzle it.

Media Hype of Famine in Thar

Media Hype of Famine in Thar

IV-               The death toll reported by media is 120-130 but on the contrary during January-March 2014, the actual number of deaths is below 50, but no one is referring the statistics. Apart from the number game the major reasons of deaths are;

  • Neonatal Foetuses
  • Birth Asphyxia
  • Pneumonia
  • Anaemia

Out of all the mentioned reasons only Anaemia can be linked with drought or malnourishment. However, in last three months, the number of deaths due to Anaemia, in civil hospital Mithi is only four. The other reasons include Pre-term birth and low birth weight.

V-                 Livestock deaths are the actual burning issue in recent context as livestock-related income is a major source of livelihood for people. The deaths among livestock especially sheep arisen out due to lack of comprehensive vaccination by livestock department, Govt of Sindh instead of effects of famine.  The other reasons include illegal occupation on GAUCHAR land (grazing fields) by the influential with support of government officials and continuous cropping on high sides of dunes has severely affected the natural echo system.

VI-               The shortage of funds and lack of facilities in BHUs and hospitals have deteriorated the situation. Though the district is spread over 22,000 square kilometres yet there is only one stabilization centre in district hospital.

VII-             The situation has helped various religious organizations and their outfit to intervene in peaceful land and also provided opportunity to people with vested interests to take their share from new wave.

Way forward:

I-                    An assessment in to the matter in order to know the genuine reasons of infant mortality.

II-                  Restoration of the encroached Guacher land (grazing fields) by getting it back from the influential.

III-                Instead of focusing cities and urban settlements, wheat supply in the far-flung areas and by using criteria like BISP survey results or Poverty score card results.

IV-               Blanket Livestock vaccination and mobile medical camps.

V-                 Sensitization of women especially pregnant and lactating women around behavioural change communication about common children diseases, safe deliveries etc.

VI-               The access to food is not issue however purchasing power of people can be increased by expanding people’s livelihood options.

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