Blog: Update on humanitarian situation in Thar

Thar Desert also goes into India. Picture from Wikipedia.

I spoke to UNICEF who provided me with some information about the current situation in Thar – which I wrote about in my last blog post – and the work the organisation is doing in the area.

UNICEF provided the following information:

“According to the recent nutrition survey conducted in district Tharparkar an estimated 29% of children are malnourished – severe acute malnutrition 6.2%, moderate acute malnutrition, 22.7%. This is above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) threshold for emergency, i.e. 15%.

Similarly stunting and underweight children are above the global accepted threshold.

Malnutrition among children and pregnant and lactating women are associated with high morbidity and mortality among children and negative pregnancy outcomes. Globally 54% of deaths among children are associated with malnutrition.

The problem of malnutrition is further compounded by food insecurity as the district is classified as severely food insecure. To address the scale of the problem, a multi-sector and multi-actors response needs to be sustained in the long run to have impact at scale.”

UNICEF said it is providing aid in coordination with other relevant government’s departments, UN agencies and partners and is leading the emergency nutrition response in Pakistan.

This includes providing planning, financial and technical support, as well as data collection. In collaboration with Provincial Nutrition Cell, a district health department, UNICEF has also implemented a Community Based Management of Acute Malnutrition Program (CMAM) in 44 Union councils in Tharparkar. The services are implemented through primary health care facilities and mobile teams to ensure access to services for those living in very remote areas. Currently 86 health care providers are trained in CMAM.

Through the programme children, pregnant and lactating women are screened at community level – door to door approach – and malnourished cases are identified and referred to health facilities for further assessment and treatment with ready to use therapeutic food, antibiotics, supplementary food, such as Iron/folic, multi-micronutrient and vitamin A supplementation.

UNICEF added:

“To date, 107552 children and 52508 pregnant and lactating women are screened for their malnutrition status. Among them 6208 severely acute malnourished and 16797 moderately malnourished children are enrolled in programs respectively. In addition, 10280 malnourished pregnant and lactating women are registered.

“UNICEF in collaboration district health department and provincial Nutrition cell will continue its support in all supported health facilities/ Union Councils. In addition, two more stabilisation centres will be established to effectively address the needs of growing number of complicated severe acute malnutrition cases. Furthermore outreach components will be strengthened in all supported union councils to ensure maximum population access to life saving nutrition interventions.”

Arif Jabbar Khan Director for Oxfam in Pakistan told  Business Recorder that the current disaster in Thar is not a new phenomenon but been have been living with the situation for thousands of years.

“Tthe situation is worsened and is changing due to climate change: What has changed now is the impact of climate change and infrastructure development. So for example the rainfall timing and intensity has altered due to climate change effects and the depth of water in rivers and flood channels has changed due to infrastructure development.”

He added that is it important to pass this new information on to communities and for local authorities to be ready with the right information in order to provide an appropriate response.


The UNICEF information was provided by spokesperson DanielTimme, Chief, Advocacy & Communication, United Nations Children’s Fund for Pakistan on the 14th of January 2014.