LAHORE – A senior aid worker working in Tharparkar district has told The Nation that the death toll of new born children dying due to diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition may run into hundreds as most cases have not been reported.

Muhammad Khalid Saif, office bearer of a religious charity related to Jamaatud Dawa spoke to The Nation from the district headquarters Mithi. “In most cases the people do not take their children to hospitals and depend on traditional medicines or are not able to reach there in time,” Saif explained. The charity for which he works for is leading among the NGOs active in providing relief to the people in affected area.

“Thar desert is different from the rest in the world. In other deserts there are no habitations for miles but this one has a village every 10 kilometre. The villages can be small remote settlements of 20 to 30 houses or could there be 200 to 300 houses. It is a famine like situation as the promised wheat supply at subsidized rates has not been provided. There has been no rainfall and due to that there have been no crops of barley and gawar (vegetable) this year.

“The fodder for cattle is also scarce. Therefore, the whole lifestyle of the people has been disturbed. The new born children are dying because they are too small to survive. I have seen children that weighed only one kg or 1.5kg. This is happening because the mothers are malnourished. They live in small settlements where there are no health facilities available,” Khalid said.

He was of the view that Tharparkar was one of the most underdeveloped districts of Pakistan. “There are hardly any roads and you have to move around in jeeps, which the local people cannot. Transportation is not available. There is no mobile phone service and in most areas do not have electricity. Malnourished new born children do not get the chance to have medical treatment near their homes where they are born,” the aid worker said.

He said there was urgent need for food supplies in the district especially in the remote villages where transport facilities are not available.

The aid worker said there was need to create awareness among the masses. “The average number of family members is 10 to 12. In Panilo village of Lund Baloch caste I met a old man whose wife was holding him. He was father of 21 children from one wife. So one can imagine the situation,” he said.   

Currently our medical teams are working in remote areas of Jaharombi, Welanjah, Parari, Diploo and Nagarparkar. We are doing all that is possible but it is a huge task,” Khalid maintained.