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Sindh govt responsible for Thar situation; crisis a 'national shame': SC

11 March, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held the Sindh government responsible for the drought in Thar and said that if media had not highlighted the issue it would have been swept under the carpet.

A two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani heard the suo motu case on Monday. Sindh chief secretary submitted a report in the court according to which a total of 67 cases of infant and child mortality have been reported in the Tharparkar District in the last three months. The report stated that 26 deaths were reported in December, 18 in January and 23 in February.

"Most of these deaths have been due to pneumonia, sepsis, birth asphyxia and very few from malnutrition. Sepsis is caused mainly due to use of unhygienic methods of delivery used by midwives and untrained local daees, the report stated.

According to the report, around 0.12 million wheat bags worth Rs 429 million are being distributed amongst the affected people. "Around 80,000 bags have already been dispatched and received in the district." Meanwhile, Sindh Advocate General Fateh Malik told court that children in Tharparkar died due to cold. "Parents do not get their children treated until their condition gets critical," he added. On this, the chief justice remarked that the Sindh government is responsible for whatever happened in the Tharparkar District.

He noted that the media had highlighted the issue otherwise it would have been swept under the carpet. Advocate General Malik argued that the situation is not as bad as the media is portraying it to be. The apex court inquired how many children have died in the region and when did it come to the provincial authorities' notice. The advocate general told the court that 60 children have died during the last three months. Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that the people in the district do not need the prime minister or the chief minister, rather they need food.

"We should bow our heads in shame over what is happening there," Chief Justice Jillani said about the situation in Tharparkar. The court has sought a detailed report from the Sindh government about the total number of deaths due to the drought, and adjourned the hearing until March 17.

At least 62 children have died in Tharparkar where thousands are suffering from malnutrition, officials said Monday. The disaster has sparked public outcry and diverted media attention away from the regular glut of militant attacks, with both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visiting the afflicted region. Local authorities last week ordered a probe into the deaths, which occurred in a stretch of the Thar Desert, which begins around 300 kilometres from Karachi and runs up to the border with India.

Mumtaz Ali Shah, home secretary of Sindh, told the court: "At least 62 children died, mostly because of unusual cold weather leading to outbreak of pneumonia and poor medical facilities during last three months in Thar." The court directed the officials to file a detailed statement about the situation with a plan of action next Monday.


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