03/10/2014, 00.00
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In Pakistan, the Catholic Church is helping drought-stricken Sindh

by Jibran Khan
Yesterday, prayer vigils and fundraisers were held to fund emergency relief operations. More than 2,000 villages are at risk. In the past three months, malnutrition has killed more than 130 children. A ban on cattle sales because of poor animal health has compounded an already dire situation.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church of Pakistan has organised prayer vigils and raised funds for the victims of a recent drought that has hit Sindh. Yesterday, a special celebration was held for more than 2,000 villages in Pakistan's southernmost province.

Various parishes raised money for immediate action and relief operations on behalf of affected communities, which are increasingly at risk of hunger and disease.

Volunteers are working on first aid projects to deal with the devastating crisis that has caused the death of over 130 children in the last three months.

Pakistani Prime Minister of Mian Nawaz Sharif, along with senior government officials in Sindh province, arrived in the southeastern district of Thar where they met local residents.

The area is home to the country's largest Hindu community outside of India with more than 2.3 million people, most of them unskilled labour, often in agriculture.

Central and local authorities said they would make every effort to deal with the crisis, but the situation is such that action so far has proven ineffective.

In Bhari, the city's mayor announced a 200 million rupee fund for residents, through a joint project promoted by civil society groups dedicated to helping children.

On Twitter, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari leader called for "doctors and paramedics" to "be sent to Taluka Hospitals where they are most needed." 

Pakistan has seen before major natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and regular drought resulting in famine.

Hospital sources in Tharparkar District report more than 120 deaths in the past three months, with 32 children dying of malnutrition in February, even though official Sindh Government estimates continue to put the number of dead at less than half of that.

According to Mithi Taluka hospital, 38 children died from lack of food and water in December; another 42 victims died in January and 36 in February. So far in March, at least five children have died.

Because of the drought, local residents have reported a drastic reduction in the size of cattle herds, as well as losses of camels and peacocks.

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah dismissed livestock officials for failing to cope with the situation. However, in Thar district, the provincial government made matters worse when it banned the sale of cattle because of the animals' poor health.

"Pneumonia and malnutrition" are the main causes of death in cattle and are due to "neglect by local government and public health officials, police and livestock officials."

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