KARACHI - Admitting his governent’s negligence in ensuring medical aid and provision of food in Thar area of Sindh where 41 children died of acute malnutrition in last two months (January and February), Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Friday announced Rs100 million food package for the drought-hit people of the area, besides ordering a probe into the matter.
Addressing a press conference at CM’s House, the Sindh chief minister said DIG police Hyderabad was assigned the task to probe into the cause of deaths as well as negligence of district administration.
The CM also announced financial compensation of Rs0.2 million for heirs of each child died due to malnutrition during last two months in Thar.
He announced that wheat would be distributed free of cost among 1.6 million people of Tharparkar affected by drought.
Flanked by Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, Livestock Minister Jam Khan Shoro, PPP leader Taj Haider, Qaim said he had suspended the Director General Health of the province, MS Civil Hospital Mithi and Director Livestock of Tharparkar, besides transferring deputy commissioner Mithi (son of PPP leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim) and SSP Mithi for their negligence in not providing medical facilities and food to the people of the area.
The chief minister also assigned a task to the DIG police Hyderabad region to investigate the cause of children’s deaths and fix responsibility delay in provision of medicines as well as dispatching the wheat to the people of Thar area.
Qaim, who is chief executive of the province, while sharing the official data, told the media that 41 children died in Thar during last two months and claimed that cold weather, pneumonia and malnutrition were the main causes of death of these Thar children.
He said like other parts of the country Thar also witnessed freezing cold a couple of months back and the children facing malnutrition had little resistance power so they easily caught pneumonia which proved fatal to them.
He said that media in its reports claimed more deaths which would be probed.
He added that drought was not new in Thar area.
“If there is no rain in Thar, government declares it calamity-hit and provides wheat to the affected people,” he said claiming that his government a few months back did the same and provided wheat this year too.
He added that MS Civil Hospital Mithi, who is a civil surgeon, was also suspended and arrested for his criminal negligence. He said the MS could not inform the government in time about the calamity and failed to provide medical assistance to the affected children causing deaths of 41 kids. Qaim said despite the deaths, the MS did not transfer the other children suffering from pneumonia to Hyderabad and Karachi for treatment.
Announcing Rs100m food package, he said 60,000 wheat bags (each 100kg) would be distributed among the drought-hit people free of cost in a transparent manner through a monitoring committee led by PPP leader Taj Haider, an MPA and a local journalist of the area. He also announced Rs10 million to purchase medicines for Mithi Hospital, besides issuing directions for ensuring the availability of doctors at the basic health units in rural areas of the Thar.
The CM said that mothers were also victims of malnutrition in Thar area and their newborn children also suffered the same problem with pneumonia disease in cold weather.
Qaim claimed that his government took prompt action and two children had so far been shifted to Hyderabad while at least 45 children were admitted to nutrition stabilization centres set up at Mithi Civil Hospital.
When asked why he had not taken action against concerned ministers of the departments, the chief minister said that local officers, who were working on the spot, was responsible for the issue, while ministers of livestock or food departments made efforts to provide wheat and vaccination of the cattle in the area.
To another question about his resignation over the kids’ deaths, the CM expressed his annoyance against journalists for their criticism and didn’t respond.