Tuesday January 18, 2022

Malnourishment of mothers, children deaths: Sindh govt fails to implement AAP project in Thar, Umerkot

January 15, 2022

SUKKUR: The Sindh government has failed to implement the Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts to control the deaths of children, dying due to malnourished mothers facing hunger and poverty.

The News has learnt that the Sindh government allocated adequate resources in its financial outlay for the Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) to mitigate malnourishment and stunting issues across the province. Initiative of the Health department, launched under the umbrella of Social Protection Unit (SPU) and supervised by the Social Welfare department, the agreement was signed on July 26, 2017 and the World Bank provided $61.62 million. The News has learnt that initially, the SPU launched the project in Tharparkar and Umerkot, where the death rate of the malnourished children was high but in reality no such project was implemented anywhere. The programme was aimed to cover 20 UCs of the districts, including riverine, agriculture, dry lands, coastal and urban areas. The News tried to contact the deputy commissioners and district health officers of the districts but received no response from them.

The News has learnt that the SPU renamed as Social Protection Strategy Unit (SPSU) and run by Haris Gazdar, coordinator to the CM was aimed to reduce the rate of stunting and malnutrition but failed to achieve the targets even after its merger into the CM’s Secretariat.

Despite, drawing huge allowances and paying rents of offices, the project has not achieved any tangible results since its establishment in 2017, whereas the MIS system, on which the Social Registry depends, was not established either. The sources said that the WB funds, available for the establishment of Management Information System (MIS) and the purchase of vehicles, were not utilized and without establishing a robust MIS system, the implementation of Sindh Social Registry programme remained a dream. It is alleged that hiring and firing of the staff and specialists were done on political basis. Non-technical staff and unqualified consultants were hired on salaries ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs60,000 did not deliver. There were four programme coordinators, including Essa Memon, Munawar Mithani, Sikandar Khushk and Nisar Memon, who were PMS, ex-PCS and PAS officers, whereas such development projects require experts from the relevant fields.

Even after the merger of SPU into the SPSU, the officers of the Social Welfare department and others kept enjoying the perks and privileges, whereas the specialists, who served on competitive market salaries faced red tapism at the hands of government officials. Moreover, the delay in salaries and lack of field offices also hindered to accomplish the tasks.

Besides, low-profile companies were hired, which caused problems and delays and did not provide required services, while payments to them were made on the basis of personal contacts. Hundreds of millions were used to purchase furniture, equipment and renovation of the main rented office.

The sources said that an amount of Rs1.4 billion allocated in 2019 by the Sindh government was not utilised. The SPSU programme, included 1,000-day mother and child programme, Bhook Mitao Programme, Benazir Women Worker Programme and Youth Development Programme, however, due to the absence of MIS system the programme suffered. The available funds under the WB’s assistance were returned.