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

Muhammad Khalid Saif, an office bearer of a religious charity, Jamaat-ud-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 areas.

“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 kilometres. The villages can be small remote settlements of 20 to 30 houses or there could be 200 to 300 houses. There is a famine-like situation in the area as the promised wheat supply at subsidised 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. Newborn children are dying because they are too small to survive due to famine-like situation. 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 do not have. Transportation is not available. There is no mobile phone service and most areas do not have electricity.

Malnourished newborn children do not get the chance to have medical treatment near their homes,” the aid worker said.

He said there was an 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. “An average number of family members is 10 to 12. In Panilo village of Lund Baloch caste, I met an old man whose wife was holding him. He was the 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.