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SHC seeks fact-finding report on Thar drought
(25th, March,2014) - Onepakistannews
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed Sindh government to place on record the report of fact-finding committee constituted to probe Tharparkar tragedy, mostly deaths of women and children due to famine like situation in Tharparkar.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar wondered that provincial authorities had neither apprised the court of a task of fact-finding into Thar tragedy assigned to Sanaullah Abbasi DIG Hyderabad nor has submitted a report in this regard. It issued directives to advocate general Sindh to furnish a copy of the report before court on next date of hearing.
The two-judge bench gave these directions while hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Institute of Labour and Education Research (PILER) and others seeking action against the government officials for their failure in providing relief and health facilities to famine-hit Tharparkar.
The hench constituted a three-member committee under the supervision of additional district to carry out inspection as to whether the medical officers posted by health department in desert were properly discharging their duties and submit its report.
The court instructed committee to also comment in report on the adequacy, efficiency and effectiveness of various health facilities in Tharparkar and submit their proposals and recommendation to improve the same. The report shall be submitted on next date of hearing, the court order added.
The bench ordered health secretary to provide a list of doctors, who have been posted in Tharparkar for rescue and relief operation, have defied the orders and shall inform the court about progress made in disciplinary action against such doctors.
The two-judge bench censured the secretary food and secretary Board of Revenue Sindh, who failed to provide the court with information regarding entire mechanism of food supply in desert areas.
It said that it is of basic important that government inform the court about entire mechanism of food supply system in the province and more particularly in its far flung areas and what was the role and responsibilities of the food department in this regard, and what is basic criteria for the relief department to supply food.
Provincial government told the court that three persons Fazul ur Rehman ex-relief commissioner, Ghulam Mustafa commissioner Mirpurkhas and Makhdoom Aqeel uz Zaman deputy commissioner Mirpurkhas were removed from the post on their negligent behavior in providing relief and health facilities in Tharparkar. The court ordered three persons to appear before it well-prepared to meet all relevant queries of court that may be raised.
The judges became visibly irked when they were informed by relief commissioner that still 22758 families were without food and relief items from government. The court directed chief secretary to urgently take up the matter and make immediate arrangements for food supplies to the families.
The court asked him to submit comprehensive and detailed report in this regard before the next date hearing.
The petitioners represented by advocate Faisla Siddiqu submitted in petition that most areas of Tharparkar, including Mithi, Chachro, Diplo, Islamkot and Nangarparkar, were facing a famine-like situation and over 200 people, majority of them malnourished children, had died. They said that around 175,000 families were reported to have been affected with some of them forced to leave their homes due to famine.

Mode of sustenance: For the people of Thar, livestock means life
(19th, March, 2014) - The Express Tribune

According to statistics obtained from the last survey of livestock in 2006, the total number of domesticated animals in the region was 4,593,598. The number has now crossed six million over the last seven years. Meanwhile, there are only 11 veterinary doctors against the 17 sanctioned vacancies.
Over 75 per cent of the animals in Sindh are reportedly in Tharparkar where there is just one doctor to cater to over 600,000 animals. Compare these figures to the Punjab where there is a doctor for every 100,000 animals. “What we lack is planning, advocacy and awareness among the people,” an official of the livestock department said on the condition of anonymity.
The mobilisation of animals between Tharparkar and its adjacent barrage areas, including Badin and Mirpurkhas, is a routine practice. Residents of the barrage areas move their animals to the desert in search of greener pastures during the time of floods, while the people of Tharparkar move their animals when the drought hits parts of the desert. “It is a routine practice. We cannot stay here because our animals will die due to the non-availability of fodder,” Loang, a resident of village Lanjha, Diplo, who owns 40 cattle, told The Express Tribune. He was on his way to Badin with his livestock. Loang revealed that over a dozen of his cows had died in the last three months. “I simply cannot afford for more of my livestock to die.”
According to a survey conducted by a Thar-based organisation, Thardeep, about 42,000 sheep have died in the region between January to March 14. “They have all died because of a viral disease,” believed its chief, Zaffar Junejo. “They have not died because of the drought, but failure of vaccination,” he claimed.
Junejo went on to warn that the situation could deteriorate in the coming days with foot and mouth diseases. He insisted that only proper vaccination could save the thousands of animals in Thar.
According to the residents of Thar, the mobilisation of their animals is interlinked with their labour in the fields of landlords of the barrage areas. “We work on their land and in return, our animals are given fodder and we get some cash as well,” another resident of Mithi taluka, Bachayo, told The Express Tribune. “Our animals are our assets and we cannot take more risk,” he added.
Meanwhile, officials of the livestock department blame the mobilisation of animals as the cause of viral and bacterial diseases in Thar and its adjacent areas. “There is a refusal to vaccinate these animals too,” said an official. He added that there was also a dearth of adequate funding for research and vaccination in the province.
Livestock herding is the single largest source of income for the people of Thar. For them, the death of one animal is an indicator that the disease could spread. “This is all because of the lack of rainfal,” believed Gopal, a resident of village Motatiyon.
Junejo disagreed. “No, it is because of a lack of seriousness on the government’s part. Thar received only 30 per cent less rain this year,” said Junejo, rejecting the arguments of the villagers.
The livestock department’s officials and social activists believe that the animals of Thar could be saved if timely vaccination was carried out. They also urged that the livestock of the area could generate a sizeable revenue if serious efforts were made.


Drought in Tharparkar: Death toll reaches 121 in three months
(7th, March, 2014) - The express Tribune
Surgeon Dr Jaur Kumar said 23 deaths had been registered at the Mithi taluka hospital, citing various causes in addition to food deficiency. According to sources, 38 children died of malnutrition in the Mithi taluka hospital in December 2013, and there were 42 deaths in January, 36 in February; there have been five deaths in March thus far. Local representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) are reluctant to share their findings and WHO’s Dr Nasrullah Thebo and Dr Nisar refused to comment on the deaths. These figures are not officially accepted and Dr Kumar, who publicly accepted that 23 deaths had been registered in February, was suspended by the chief minister for failing to cope with the situation.
The flurry among government officials and the sudden visit of chief minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday to take stock of the situation indicates its severity. “I came here after watching the media reports,” the CM said. “Some 60 children have died in the last two months due to pneumonia and other illnesses,” added Shah, who visited the hospital and inaugurated a subsidized wheat distribution programme.
The provincial government usually declares a state of drought in Thar by September or October when there is low rainfall during and after the monsoon season. However, with moderate to low rainfall occurring until late September last year, the government pushed the announcement forward and provision of relief was thus delayed.
Deputy Commissioner Makhdoom Aqeeluz Zaman admitted that there is a problem to contend with, but deflected responsibility from his administration, saying, “We have seen statistics in the past which show that such incidents happen during droughts.”
According to sources, local administration and health officials described the situation as ‘normal during drought’ while briefing the chief minister. “We expected that the CM would announce a special package and compensation for families whose children have died but he did not even mention how long the subsidized wheat distribution programme will continue,” an official who was at the meeting told The Express Tribune.
As many as 60,000 wheat bags, 25 kilograms each, are slated for distribution in the district. Usually this process starts in November or December and continues for at least three months until spring. Speaking with the media, the chief minister said more wheat would be supplied in case of a shortfall, but did not specify a timeframe for the distribution. Additionally, the district administration owes Rs60 million to transporters responsible for ferrying wheat across the desert region and a local activist pointed out that distribution will not commence until these dues from 2012 and previous years are cleared. “The quantity of wheat to be distributed is too little and too late,” he added. The chief minister said he has taken notice of the transporters’ complaints and said the problem would be addressed.
Locals have seen the numbers of cattle, camels and peacocks whittled down during the drought this year. The chief minister has suspended local livestock officials for their failure to control the situation. Additionally, to the chagrin of the Tharis, Shah has also imposed a ban on the sale of cattle from Thar to other districts for a period of 15 days in view of the deteriorating health of the animals.
Additionally, Pakistan Peoples Party Patron-In-Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has directed the Sindh government to launch relief operations in the Thar desert immediately and called for a Special Relief Committee to monitor the situation. Speaking with his Advisor on Minority Affairs Surendar Valasai, who belongs to Thar, he expressed his concern over the deaths of 32 children and said he will take the issue up with Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.

Development: 70 water tanks to be installed in Cholistan
(4th, March, 2014) - The Express Tribune
Presiding over a meeting to plan for any eventuality in Cholistan, the chief secretary said the water tanks were part of a plan to provide drinking water to the people.
He said all government departments should work together to facilitate the people of the region.
“Fortunately, the situation in Cholistan is much better compared to Tharparkar… all government officials should continue to perform their duties honestly,” he said.
Cheema directed the Health Department to ensure that doctors were present at all times at basic health centres. “Strict action should be taken against absentee doctors,” he added.
He said mobile dispensaries should be sent to areas far from towns. “Everyone should have the right to seek medical treatment.”
He said arrangements should also be made to vaccinate livestock.
The chief secretary approved a project to clean tobas (ponds) in Cholistan with help from the Department of Range Management.
Commissioner Captain (r) Asadullah Khan said four medical camps and four livestock camps had been established in Cholistan where 850 people and more than 8,000 animals had been treated.
He said 52,000 gallons water was being provided to the people through that tobas under four water supply schemes.
“There is no immediate danger of food shortage or spread of contagious diseases in any part of the Cholistan,” he added.
MPA Khalid Jajja told the meeting water supply to several areas in Cholistan had stopped because transformers were being stolen.
Chaudhry Saud Majeed, the chief minister’s coordinator for the region, said a system should be developed for provision of fodder to livestock in Cholistan.