Tharparkar district was declared as a drought affected district by the Sindh government in September 2018 owing to the fact that the district received lesser precipitation and that too untimely.Each of the two reasons though interconnected are natural which has been witnessed since ages. The Sindh government looking to the poor socio-economic conditions of the area after declaring the district as drought affected announced a relief package of free wheat to the drought affected head of families at the scale of 50 kilogrammes. This time, the Sindh government decided to provide wheat relief to the head of families registered with the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and the distribution modalities were also made transparent enough to be made from safe and secure sentinel points. NADRA authorities were approached by the Relief Department after which initially, a list of 208,847 head of families of drought affected areas was shared. Distribution started initially from the seven taluka food godowns due to the fact that the codal formalities relating to the transportation of wheat at the sentinel points were also to be complied with to maintain fairness and transparency in the government business. Meanwhile, tenders were floated to obtain rates for transporting wheat bags at the sentinel points. The district administration on receipt of complaints regarding non-enlistment of many head of families in the NADRA list approached and requested NADRA to re-visit the caseload. NADRA authorities shared another list of 69,705 head of families of affected areas of Tharparkar and so the caseload for distribution of wheat relief rose to 276,152. One should realise the fact that there are a large number of married individuals who have had not updated their family status due to which their status with NADRA had still not updated. The government propagated and convinced such couples to update their family status by approaching NADRA centres. NADRA authorities were also instructed to facilitate such married couples. At the same time, NADRA authorities were advised to share the details of heads of families from time to time as and when their status is updated so that their approval for distribution of wheat is sought from the competent authority. More than 12,000 families have updated their family status for which competent authority has been apprised with a request to accord permission to distribute wheat relief, Tharparkar Deputy Commissioner (DC) informed.The beneficiaries of wheat have applauded government’s efforts regarding the distribution mechanism by virtue of which every eligible beneficiary is getting wheat which is properly weighed“We are expecting its approval sooner and they will accordingly be provided wheat relief,” he said adding that around 250,000 families have received wheat relief in each of the two phases which have ended since September 2018. We have entered into the third phase with the start of the New Year. The beneficiaries of wheat have applauded government’s efforts regarding the distribution mechanism by virtue of which every eligible beneficiary is getting wheat which is properly weighed in the most appropriate manner. The responsibility of state is being discharged to their best potential and all possible measures are being taken to ensure that no eligible beneficiary is left un-attended, the DC said. He said that we are in constant liaison with NADRA authorities and pursuing them to share the names of eligible families of the 167 affected dehs of the district. Responding to a query as regards left over beneficiaries of phase 1 or phase 2, he said that their wheat is available with the government and is open for distribution as and when any eligible listed in NADRA lists are approaching our taluka offices. Talking about leniencies given in this regard, he said that the administration understands the ground realities whereby some who are sick or old aged or confined in prison or have migrated to barrage areas are also being looked after and their wheat relief is being given to their close relatives such as spouse, father, un-married son and/or daughter.Another relief being extended by the government is the family ration bag being given to pregnant and lactating women of the district. The government on the input of Sindh Health Care Commission chairman has decided to provide ration bags to the pregnant and lactating women because the child mortality is not related to the nutritional deficiencies of the new born but it is associated with multiple reasons one of which is improper dietary intake of the pregnant women and/or overburdened women by way of performing domestic tasks ranging from fetching water from wells and other sources such as Reverse Osmosis Plants, bringing woods from the fields for the cooking and other domestic purposes, cooking, upbringing and upkeeping their children, etc. Other related factors include non-maintenance of birth gaps, utilization of services of un-skilled health workers for delivery of new born, poor health awareness leading to either no or insufficient ante natal care checkups during pregnancy, etc. The government in the first phase of ration bags distribution identified 36,708 pregnant and lactating women through Health Department and the People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative whom these bags were given. Subsequently, government dispensaries and other health facilities in the district were used for registering the pregnant and lactating women where around 66,691 women were registered and accordingly second phase of ration bags distribution is in progress. 60,000 women have so far been provided these bags at their doorsteps. Mirpurkhas commissioner said that it is an on-going process where figures will keep fluctuating due to which we have sought approval for 10 percent provision for those women which get registered as and when they become pregnant. He further added that with the passage of time, pregnant women would convert into lactating women on delivery of their babies which will otherwise be considered for provision of ration bag. He said that this activity is a good initiative on part of the government and its long term effects would definitely help in overcoming the nutritional deficiencies of the already overburdened women of the district. Replying to the query of women protesting frequently in some areas, he clarified that people are misconceived as if the said relief is to be generally distributed among all; it is not so and people have been clarified that it is only for the pregnant and lactating mothers having children under six months; age.The fodder distribution activity by government is to take off from four union councils of the Islamkot Taluka for which services of Thar Foundation are being utilised. It is so because Thar Foundation had earlier under its CSR component distributed fodder to 1,596 families having livestock in Islamkot after thorough assessment. The commissioner further informed that some non-governmental organisations are also working in fodder component and we have bound them to share their lists of beneficiaries to avoid duplication and cover majority of the livestock owners and that too the marginalised communities first having relatively lesser flock. Reverse Osmosis Plants are being made operational. Out of more than 250 non-functional plants, around 220 have been made operational. Out of 589 installed plants, 555 have been made functional. Work on the remaining non-functional plants is in full swing which would take another 15 days or so since their bores have either been dried out or require major repair. The contractor has also started commissioning 237 plants for which plant and its accessories along with other materials have been placed at majority of the sites for installation. Thus, once commissioned, Tharparkar district would have 834 plants functional which would definitely cover more than 1,000 villages and other big towns of the district.The challenging task of addressing health care needs of the residents of Tharparkar district has been undertaken. Tharparkar district health offier states that more than 180 doctors have newly been posted by Health Department. “We are focusing on full fledge operationalisation of 200 plus dispensaries already established across the district. The newly joined doctors have also been posted at district and taluka hospitals facing shortage of specialists. Health department has finalised a programme of upgrading 35 dispensaries to mother and child health care centres, which would take off in the month end,” he informed.By strengthening the health services at union council level specially relating to mother and child, he said that the health system would improve and we will witness reduced child mortality which otherwise here in Tharparkar is also below the international standards. He further added that the National Institute of Child Health has opened its ward in Mithi since November 2018 and is providing best health care services to the children being admitted in the hospital. The National Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases unit is also available thus providing the best cardiac health care services.“We are also treating patients from other adjoining districts such as Mirpurkhas, Badin, Umerkot and Sanghar,” Dr Allah Dad Rathore added.The idea of strengthening residents of Tharparkar is also underway. The government has initiated village farm field and kitchen gardening concept. Village farms have been developed in 30 villages having sweet water. Likewise, more than 800 villagers of different villages along the belt of sweet water have been provided seeds and other material to develop kitchen garden to maintain their livelihood. The scale of this activity is being expanded by the government by providing seeds and kitchen gardening toolkits to 3,500 beneficiaries. Mirpurkhas commissioner said that fodder has also been grown on underground saline water having 2800 ppm as a pilot project. Five different species of fodder ie Barseem, oat grass, Rhode grass, Quinwa and Alpha alpha have been germinated and grown, which is the unique activity of its kind.“We want inhabitants to grow fodder for their livestock on their underground water sources, which actually is the main problem for Tharparkar is best known for huge livestock population of around 7 million. Besides, fodder banks are being established by Forest Department on an area of 40 acres each with the help of submersible solarised pumps,” he said.Milk chilling plants have also been set up across the district to promote economic activities in context to livestock held by the residents. Twenty-three plants all of which are functional but due to migration, five are at present operational, which supports the livelihood.Published in Daily Times, January 20th 2019.