Govt to realign its priorities


As winter’s brutal chill descends upon Sindh, 4000 babies born in flood relief camps brace themselves for a challenging year as their mothers scramble for someplace warm to live. Data compiled by the Sindh provincial government also mentioned over 6000 pregnant mothers scattered in various relief camps across the province. Babies are the most vulnerable segment of Pakistan’s gargantuan flood-hit population-born to malnourished mothers who do not have access to healthcare or sanitation, in abysmal conditions, their lives are destined for tragedy before they have even begun.
Even before the floods, more than 40 per cent of Pakistani mothers suffered from anaemia-the problem has only gotten worse with hospitals witnessing a dramatic surge in malnourished babies. Waterborne diseases continue to complicate pregnancies; putting newborn babies at an increased risk of birth defects. In Southern Sindh, flooding has blocked access to medical assistance, punctuated by extensive damages to health facilities and transportation routes for medical personnel. Displaced flood victims elsewhere in Gilgit Baltistan have started asking for permanent residence as winter approaches, and rightfully so. Just a month ago, the United Nations revised its appeal to $816 million in international aid, more than five times its former assessment and even this figure is predicted to fall short given the monstrous scale of the flooding.
While the Sindh government appears to have taken note of the situation, promising to mobilize personnel for “an immediate supply of winter protection stuff,” they are still underestimating the issue. Pregnancy is stressful enough without having to worry about essentials such as food and shelter. Thousands of pregnant women are living under the open sky and delivering babies in unsafe conditions, and it only gets worse once their babies are out of the womb and they have no one to turn to. Evidence reveals that severe and recurrent floods have the greatest impact on undernutrition, causing food insecurity and stunting cognitive development. We need dedicated federal funds to rebuild what has been lost; it is the state’s fundamental responsibility to provide security to its people and compensate for the losses they have suffered due to its negligence. Women and children won’t stand a chance until the government realigns its priorities and intervenes in a more meaningful way.