The attitude of the Sindh Government regarding the drought related deaths in Tharparkar has been callous and highly insensitive. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah claims that he believed that the whole situation was being exaggerated, and his government was being ‘falsely’ blamed for a situation that simply didn’t exist. He has been claiming this for the past year. Sindh Minister for Food Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has dismissed the persistent deaths of children in Thar, washing his hands off the responsibility saying that there was no famine like condition in Thar. He put blame for the tragedy on lack of awareness about handling of newborns and mothers, before and after pregnancy, and delayed arrival of sick children at healthcare facilities.

Perhaps Mr. Qaim Ali Shah is not at all aware of the ecological and climatic conditions of the very province he is responsible for, as Thar faces severe droughts for two to three years in every 10-year cycle and has been witnessing famine-like conditions for ages. The average annual rainfall is less than 250mm, which is usually uneven and erratic. The area is termed as hyper-arid and the only feature that separates it from deserts like Sahara is its vegetation cover, which is over exploited and mismanaged. No concerted efforts have been made to conserve and develop the potential of Thar through a scientific and institutional approach, where the focus should have been on building the local residents capacity to generate income through livestock development, silvopastoral development and desertification control.

Instead of accepting their utter failure and taking responsibility for the drought and famine in the area and the deaths related to these miserable conditions, the government blames lack of awareness. It might be news to them that the provision of healthcare and educating people on maternal care and common illnesses is also the governments’ responsibility, which it has shirked at every available opportunity.

The provision of rural healthcare can be defined as beyond dismal in Pakistan. Achieving sustainable improvements in health has proved to be the biggest challenge yet that no government has been able to address. The death toll in drought-hit Thar has been on the rise since the start of this month, as malnutrition and water-borne diseases have prevailed in the region, and no action can be taken to ease the suffering of the people if the government refuses to escape this cycle of denial and blame shifting.