Pakistan has the third highest rate of stunted growth in the world, as a result of the high levels of malnutrition among children.


Senin, 05 Mei 2014 17:48 WIB


Pakistan, Tharpakar, malnutrition, health, Naeem Sahoutara and Shadi Khan Saif

Pancho Mai is a villager in Kapoosar Village in Tharpakar district. Today is the festival of Holi, but the 25-year-old mother has no reason to celebrate. “My three children have died over the past three months. They had fever for a few days, and then pneumonia killed them.”

Her mother-in-law, Kaplana Mai, rushed the children to the only government hospital in the district. But it was too late… they died within days. 

“At first, blood was oozing from the babies’ noses. They were admitted to the health facility, but they didn’t survive.”

This is not an isolated case. 

Since December last year, according to independent statistics reported by the local media, some 200 children, mostly newborn babies, have died in this desert district. 

This has become headline news in the national and international media. 

According to the National Disaster Management Authority, Thar, one of the largest desserts in the world, is now facing a famine-like situation.

Thar spreads over an area of 10,000 kilometer and has a population of 1.3 million.Locals say that agriculture depends heavily on the seasonal monsoon rains and there have been droughts for centuries.

Health experts believe that the majority of the Thari people are underfed… and that they are slowly dying as a result of starvation… with hundreds of newborn baby deaths are reported every year. But the government claims that the deaths are due to an outbreak of seasonal diseases. 

The government has declared a state of emergency and established temporary relief camps to provide emergency assistance. 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also visited the desert to inspect relief operations. Hundreds of families have migrated to other areas in search of a livelihood. Asif Ikramis is the Deputy District Commissioner. 

“The medical and health situation is back to normal now. But the drought in the Thar is a recurring phenomenon. It happens every year. People even migrate from one place to another with their livestock.”

Pakistan is among the three countries that accounts for half of all malnourished women and children in the world. And according to the National Malnutrition Survey two years ago, around 15 percent of Pakistan’s population is malnourished – mostly in southern Sindh province. 

The World Health Organisation is trying to change all that by building this malnourishment stabilizing center. 

Here, for the last 6 months, more than 100 children have been treated by the WHO program. Dr. Muhammad Sohail Qaimkhani is in charge of the center. “Thar has never been a priority in the past. There are multiple problems here, including low literacy, water scarcity, poor sanitation and then food insecurity. If all these problems are not addressed in the future, the situation in Thari will remain the same.”

Mothers like Pooja Ramesh have also been given training on nutrition issues and food supplements for the children. She’s happy that her daughter has now recovered. 

“When I brought my daughter here she was almost dead. Doctors treated her, now she is taking food and getting healthier. I’m happy my child’s life has been saved.”

But with half of the population living below the poverty line, the malnourishment crisis could happen again in the dessert. 

Women and child rights campaigners are now demanding a permanent solution to save future generations. 

Ghulam Muhammad Madni is heading an independent fact-finding team of fourteen child rights organizations to search for a solution. 

“This is the desert, where life is too difficult. There are so many issues that need to be addressed not only on the temporary basis. But there should be a plan of the government for the next five years or ten years that must cover not only the issues of food and nutrition but economic development may also be carried out.”

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