SHC asks Sindh govt to supply food, improve healthcare facilities in Thar

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the Sindh government to supply food and improve healthcare facilities in the affected parts of Thar. These directions came on a petition filed by non-government organisations seeking action against government functionaries for their criminal negligence in timely distribution of wheat in drought-hit area.

In light of court directives judicial officers of Umerkot district submitted their report, stating that around 44 deaths occurred due to food shortage and epidemics in Umerkot district.

Additional district and sessions Judge Umerkot district, civil judge and judicial magistrate Umerkot visited hospitals and health centers of affected areas of Umerkot district. They submitted a joint report stating that data was collected from the district health officer (DHO) Umerkot regarding the deaths so far occurred due to epidemic and food shortage in district. It revealed that 44 people died at different hospitals, out which 7 hailed from affected areas.

It said that medicines were available at the all health centers but there was acute shortage of medical officers at the health centers in district Umerkot. Report quoted DHO Umerkot, as saying that 281 posts of medical officers are lying vacant against sanctioned strength of 401medical officers.

Report stated that the district headquarter hospital Umerkot required immediate attention as all the post of specialist doctors are lying vacant, even the building of district headquarter Hospital has not been constructed. Current structure is in dilapidated condition and can collapse at any time. The x-ray machine of district headquarter hospital has been out of order for last one year.

It said that the children and women were facing serious health problems due to non-availability of gynaecologists and paediatricians. The government hospitals have not been maintained since last four years by government.

It said that deputy commissioner Umerkot submitted a notification dated 10/3/2014 whereby 25 Dehs of district Umerkot have been declared as drought affected. The district government has also submitted in report that 167229 people have been affected in Umerkot district due to drought.

It said that provincial government has not supplied food packets to drought-hit people,

The court directed the authorities concerned to ensure immediate supply of food and improvement in health facilities in the affected parts.

Earlier, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had directed judicial officers of Tharparkar and Umerkot to examine ongoing relief operation in famine-hit districts and collect data regarding death toll due to malnutrition.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and civil rights campaigner Javed Iqbal Burki jointly filed a petition, stating that most areas of Thar district including Mithi, Chhachhro, Diplo, Islamkot, and Nangarparkar are facing famine-like situation and over 200, majority of them malnourished children, have died.

The petitioners represented by Faisal Siddiqui, said that around 175000 families were reported to have been affected and some of them have been forced to leave their homes due to famine. They stated that situation had not occurred overnight but due to constant negligence by provincial government, adding that Chief Minister Sindh has also admitted to negligence by provincial government.

They said that a large number of deaths because of malnutrition has proven that provincial government has failed to effectively response to Thar tragedy, adding that government have failed in ensuring citizens’ right to food and right to be free from starvation and severe malnutrition. They requested the court to order investigation into criminal negligence by government functionaries and initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible for Thar tragedy.

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