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Thar Commission: stoppage of early marriages, improvement of mother, child nourishment urged

Karachi, April 27, 2016 (PPI-OT):Following the findings of the Commission for Thar Drought, the Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah held a high level meeting to discuss their recommendations and problems in the government efforts, if any and work out a sustainable solution off the poverty and drought stricken people of Thar.

On the recommendation of Sindh High Court, Sindh chief Syed Qaim Ali Shah constituted a four-member Commission for Thar Drought comprising Abdul Fatah Malik, Convener, Dr Tipu Sultan Member, Mr Sono Khan Khangrani Member and Director General Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Sindh Member/Secretary.

The Terms of Reference (ToR) of the commission are: To inquire into the causes, response of the administration in current crises; to fix responsibility for lapse, if any of the concerned departments in mitigating the situation during drought in Tharparkar and to suggest recommendation for remedial measures.

The commission observed that there was lack of coordination among the line departments when it comes to mitigating the drought or crisis in Thar. It also found huge coordination gap among TMAs, Special Initiative Department, NGOs and public health departments. The commission found that the departments like social welfare, agriculture, environment, forest, population welfare, transport and tourism seem to be under performing.

The commission recommended to constitute a monitoring team at provincial level having representation from the departments like health, food, livestock, irrigation and meteorology. It would submit its findings to the chief minister. The committee, as per ToR approved by the chief minister should produce a comprehensive report on quarterly basis.

The committee recommended that the adoption of a nutrition policy is needed in sectoral planning across key sectors such as poverty, food, agriculture, health, education. A structural home for nutrition is needed in each of the union council. It recommended `drought policy’. The commission was of the view that the government should adopt a separate policy and response-line of action for drought. Thar Development Authority (TDA) would serve as an umbreall organisation to manage such crisis.

The commission found that local population has been excluded from reaping the fruits of the progress of the development schemes, hence their right to job comes first. It urged the government should pursue a loyalty system for exploration of coal reserves with provision for compulsory employment of local population. It also recommended that the commercial use of tree and bushes be stopped by enforcement of law. There should be a policy for cultivation methods in Thar to ensure protection of resources and the land quality.

The commission observed that a single district hospital for a population of 1.3 million, majority of which is vulnerable is indicative of the underlying cause of current crisis. They said that there were 309 posts of specialists, medical officers and others of grade B-17 to 19 were vacant. On this the Health Minister Jam Mehtab Dahar said that the selection of specialists and medical officers have been started by Sindh Public Service commission (SPSC). Their written test was held yesterday and the entire process of selection would be completed within two months.

Secretary health Saeed Mangnijo said that apart from district headquarter hospital, there are 189 union dispensaries in Tharparkar. He added that a new District Headquarter Hospital has been approved and work would be started within a month. The chief minister directed Minister of Finance Syed Murad Ali Shah to allocate ample funds for DHQ so that it would be completed within a one year.

The commission report says that there were 14 ambulances for entire district, of them six are being used in Mithi Civil hospital. On this the chief minister said that he had approved purchase of 10 4×4 ambulances for Thar. The commission said in its report that there was no residential accommodation for doctors in Thar. They pointed out whatever accommodation is available is being used by non-medical official. On this the chief minister ordered the health minister to get them vacated at any cost.

The commission also pointed out untrained birth attendants. The secretary health said that he had started trainings of LHW so that they could serve as midwives. It was pointed out in the meeting that the doctors who are Thar domiciled were not willing to serve in Thar. On this the commission had recommended that Essential Service Act be implemented in true letter and spirit to force the doctors to serve in their areas.

The commission also urged the government for robust implementation of family planning and reproductive healthcare network. The chief minister directed the population department to furnish a detailed report of their work in Thar. It was also pointed out that the early marriages, malnourishment in mothers and children, lack of immunization, lack of access to antenatal care and health facilities are the prime concerns and need to be addressed on priority basis.

Additional Chief Secretary Mohammad Waseem said that a Rs8 billion nutrition programme for 7 districts, including Tharparkar has been launched with the assistance of EU. This must be implemented in Thar on priority basis. The commission also said that the RO plants were not running on their full capacity. Their proper maintenance and working be ensured. On this the chief minister directed the Special Initiative Department to submit its report on the RO plants and their performance.

The commission also urged the government to take necessary measures to improve irrigation system in Thar so that poverty could be reduced and desert could turn green. The chief minister directed Secretary Agriculture Shahid Gulzar Shaikh to work out special scheme for Thar and present him in the next meeting.

The commission said in its report that there were 563 schools in Thar in which 989 posts of teachers are vacant. It said that 190,000 children are enrolled in primary and only 22,000 stay till matriculation. Acting Secretary Education Mukhtiar Soomro negating the report of the commission said that there were 4008 schools in Thar, of them 3719 primary, 243 middle, 39 secondary and seven higher secondary. He added that the total enrolment in these schools is around 149,992, including 93,178 are boys and 56,814 girls. There are 5,148 teachers in Thar, including 4548 male and 600 female.

The chief minister said that the commission report was comprehensive and need to be discussed thoroughly. “The commission findings are most important and they must be discussed and considered with open minded,” he said and directed the chief secretary to hold secretaries committee meeting on the report and come up with detailed proposal in the next meeting. He added that he would take all out efforts to solve the issue of Thar.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Allah Bachayo Memon
Press Secretary
Chief Minister House
Tel: +92-21-99202019
Cell: +92-300-3524057 (Ext: 336)
Website: www.cmsindh.gov.pk

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