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Pakistan rushes aid to drought-stricken region

At least 68 children have died in Sindh province district

Pakistan rushes aid to drought-stricken region

File picture: AFP Photo/Aamir Qureshi reporter, Karachi

March 11, 2014

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Pakistani authorities on Monday hurried relief goods and announced emergency aid following a media outcry over the death of dozens of children in Pakistan’s drought-stricken southern region.

District Health Official Dr Abdul Jalil Bhargri said 68 children have died in the Thar district of Sindh province over the past three months due to malnutrition, pneumonia and other illnesses.

Approximately 26 deaths were reported in December, 18 in January and 24 in February, according to officials. However, local media reports put the death toll at nearly 140.

The Thar desert, a naturally water-stressed district, is around 300 km from the port city of Karachi.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif yesterday canceled his scheduled engagements in Islamabad and flew to the remote district to assess relief efforts and to announce $10 million in emergency aid to deal with the famine-like situation.

Addressing affected people at a military-run field hospital in Mithi town, Sharif said the federal and provincial governments and army will do whatever they can to help the region.

“Relief measures will ease the situation and you will feel relieved,” he pledged.

The drought has affected an estimated 900,000 people.

According to a press statement by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, 77,000 food packs will be provided to the residents of drought-hit areas. The authority said that the Pakistan army has distributed 25 tons of rations and established  medical camps in all four administrative towns -- Diplo, Chachoro, Mithi and Nagarparkar -- of Thar.

The statement also said that the army was planning to set up two more medical camps. They have treated some 1,625 patients so far.

Social activist Khalid Kumbhar said that short-term emergency measures being taken by authorities to deal with the drought won’t solve the crisis.

“A 50 kg bag of wheat for a seven-member family won’t even last a month and things will be the same again,” he told by phone from Thar.

The government needs to find a permanent solution to reduce poverty and provide basic health units at the village level so that people could get to doctors in time, he said.

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