ONCE again, the beleaguered citizens of Thar are in the headlines.

 
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Thar, Oct 22 (TNS): On Friday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was briefed about the abysmal healthcare situation in the region, with the information being provided that over 500 children have died during the current year in the desert area — this is the highest figure for the past four years. According to the provincial health secretary, 450 children lost their lives in 2017, while 479 died in 2016 and 398 in 2015.

The reasons for the deaths vary, according to the authorities: pre-term and low birth weight, birth asphyxia, pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, acute malnutrition with complications, and diarrhoea.

The chief minister’s response was that “we have to take a holistic approach to resolve the issue for good”.

One outcome of the briefing was that Mr Shah directed public-sector medical universities to set up health camps in the region, and make greater efforts to ensure the implementation of family planning measures, a nutrition programme, and the provision of clean drinking water amongst other mitigation moves.

It is an unfortunate fact that the country — and more importantly, its administration — tends to not remember its most vulnerable citizens in their time of need. For several years now, the Thar region of Sindh has been in the news because of the number of child deaths and maternal mortality rates.

Part of this tragedy has been attributed to the fact that the area has been in a state of drought, but more relevant is the reality that the state has abdicated its responsibilities towards those who have no voice and hardly any agency in lobbying for improved access to their rights.

Thar is a grossly underserved part of the country, and drought or not, the state needs to step in to do what is required of it to save lives and futures.

This means providing incentives for healthcare and education, and investing in other infrastructure, with the introduction of innovative interventions where required.