Child mortality in Pakistan has remained a grave concern. Chief Justice of Pakistan last month took Suo Moto action on the death of children in Sindh’s under-privileged Thar.
During a hearing last month, Chief Justice asked how many children had lost their lives in Thar this year alone. To which secretary health Sindh, Dr Usman Chachar replied that the number stood at 486. Which means even with two months remaining of 2018, the figure has already crossed last year’s 450.
But, what are the causes of such harrowing figures in Thar? Dr Allah Nawaz, head of Thardeep – an NGO working in Thar since last two decades, says that the issue is far more complicated than what is highlighted by the media.
He said he has travelled every corner of Tharparkar district, and there are settlements even in the most remote areas of the desert. He adds that these people are still dependant on natural sources as rain.
He said that children are not only dying due to the shortage of food and water. Women there are treated like animals by their husbands. They are purposefully kept uneducated and unaware so, they hardly know about their rights, anything about reproductive health and childcare.
The executive director of AWARE (Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy) actually agrees with Dr. Nawaz as well. He says that new-born children just don’t become ill overnight and die, that is a chain of events that puts children on a deathbed.
Another contributing reason is that while the legal age to marry in Pakistan is 18 years, girls in Tharparkar are married off at the age of 12. Birth without a gap, teen pregnancies and unbalanced diet also lead to malnutrition children when they are born. In Mithi district hospital, a mother gave birth to her tenth baby.
‘’The mother is only 28 years old and this is not an exception, we see many such cases every day’’ – Ghulam Rasool, a district health officer.
According to the officer, in 2015 there were 277 neonatal deaths. That number has now increased to 334 in 2017. This year until now, 512 children between the age of 1 to 5 have died.
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