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Editorial

March 20, 2017

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The Thar report

The Thar report

The 1.2 million people who live in Thar have been abandoned for over half a decade now, and there is little hope that anything is changing within the Sindh government to fix that. The fact that Thar has been out of the news does not mean that the situation there has become any better. It’s just that we have been looking elsewhere. And the provincial and federal governments have been giving one excuse after the other when reminded of the drought in Thar. Amidst the ongoing plight of the people of the region, there are chances that the situation is set to get worse this summer. A UN report released recently    has pointed to the possibility of a ‘humanitarian emergency’ in the districts of Tharparkar, Umerkot and Sanghar if there is no rain in the region in the coming monsoon season. The combined factors of water scarcity, poor healthcare and the region being so remote are going to make the situation worse.

In what can only be described as ironic, a private company in charge of the Thar coal project announced with much fanfare that three villages in Thar had been provided free-wifi internet. This while the Sindh authorities held a cultural festival in the area. All this is a stark reminder of the callous way in which the people of Thar have been – and continue to be – treated. The protests of doctors recruited in the Thar area asking to be regularised went unnoticed as fanciful dreams were sold about the region. For its part, the Sindh government insists that the situation in the three districts is much better than what it was in 2014-15. This is despite the death of over 80 babies in the region since the start of the current year. Communities in Sanghar were unable to cultivate during the last Kharif season and crop production in Umerkot has gone down. No food assistance has been provided to the region in the last six months. Women and children are suffering from malnutrition. What these alarming details highlight is that the UN joint mission’s report must not go the way of earlier studies. There needs to be concrete action. The recommendations of the Sindh Drought Needs Assessment must be followed. Providing food assistance is only a short-term measure and must be followed up with longer-term strategies for the assistance of drought-affected communities. As another hot summer approaches, the people of Thar may be heading towards yet another season of devastation. The dream of development for the people of Thar cannot be allowed to wither away in its shifting sands.

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