Monday, May 21, 2018

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Who should mothers hold responsible for their death in Balochistan?

By: Yousaf Ajab Baloch
Khair Bibi, 26, breathed her last, when she was struggling to give birth to her second child. Her family members claim that she was thrice taken to District Head Quarter (DHQ), but she was given no treatment. She was brought from Kapoto, a village some 35 kilo meter away from Kalat city. Her family members allege that staff at Gynecology Ward did not admit her and sent her back behaving rudely. 
Fortunately, her parents lived in Kalat city so she was taken there. Her husband, a poor former, told the Balochistan Point that she could live if she were admitted at hospital for the delivery case with a reasonable response, adding that  he  had no money otherwise  he  would have taken  his  wife to a private hospital in Quetta.  
Shoaib Ahmed, one of the cousins of deceased female, who was requested to accompany them when she was brought to hospital, told that he did not think his cousin died a natural death but she was killed prematurely for want of medical care. “The staff was unwilling to meet us and admit patient at Gynecology Ward. Firstly, they pretended absence of `doctors and other staff as well as of no electricity or light.” Shoaib told.
“Thrice she was taken to hospital with in eight hours but not even for a single time her blood pressure was checked and last time she was threatened that she would go under surgery if brought again.”  Shoaib lamented.
Shoaib added: “There was no light facility even we had to bring a torch from our home, even then she was sent back home, where she had her last breaths.” However, denying the allegations, Dr. Gansham, the Medical Superintendent (MS) at DHQ Kalat, told Balochistan point that there was no negligence of doctors in death of the female; she died of self-medication.
Dr Gansham Das admitted absence of   facilities and resources in hospital. “We have no facility or alternate in case of load shedding which causes suffering for patients. Because the installed solar energy system worth 6 million for hospital has become of no use in less than a year due to the poor quality supplies for the project.” he told the Balochistan Point.
Kalat city is the districts headquarter of the Kalat, roughly located in the center of Balochistan   with the population of more than 300000 where 80.79 % of the population lives in rural areas.
District Head Quarters (DHQ) hospital confronts significant shortage of clinical staff besides other basic facilities. According to the MS DHQ, out of 44 sanctioned posts of doctors and other medical staff members, more than 30 lay vacant. Currently we have only two lady medical officers but no gynecologists which is very alarming, he adds.   

There was no such serious issue of dearth of staff and resources but there were flaws in management and lack of sincerity

One of the staff members at DHQ told this scribe on condition of anonymity that there was no such serious issue of dearth of staff and resources but there were flaws in management and lack of sincerity. “Currently there are 6 Medical Officer, 2 Lady medical Officers, 4 staff nurses 3 Lady Health Visitors (LHVs) and more than 5 Midwives even than people suffer so it is just because of the failure of management. Despite utilization of more than 20 million annual budgets for medicine people suffer.” The staff member added.
District Health Officer Dr. Naseem Langove indicates lack of staff at DHQ as cause of issues in service delivery. “The doctors are appointed but they are soon transferred having support from politicians and bureaucracy and here the lack of doctors and other staff creates problems for the common people.
No enough accommodation facility also creates issues for doctors. Some normal patients may be referred to Quetta but the serious patients at gynecology ward and emergency sometimes perish due to non-availability of staff and resources. 
Khair Bibi is one the examples among thousands of suffering mothers who lose their lives during pregnancy and childbirth-related issues. One of UN Population Fund (UNFPA) recent reports states that a woman dies from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications every 20 minutes in Pakistan, however, in Balochistan the Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) are higher as compared to the other provinces. The report states: “Majority of Balochistan’s eight million inhabitants have only limited access to adequate health care; the situation is far worse.” It may be mentioned that the population is crossed over 12 million as per 2017 census.  
Among different factors, the health experts mark above mentioned problems’ persistence as a result of no gynecologists, female health workers at hospitals in far-flung areas of Balochistan since most of the doctors prefer working in Quetta or big cities in Balochistan. Even most of the doctors and LHVs refuse to serve in remote areas of Balochistan.
In the recent years country based Maternal Mortality rate (MMR) was recorded at 260 per 100,000 live births, whereas, it is the worst-hit area when it comes to MMR, CMR, and health-related indicators in Balochistan. Keeping in view Balochistan’s MMR and female reproductive health demographics the experts have already expressed that it could only compete with war-torn Somalia – with MMR of 1000 and Liberia with MMR 770 per 100,000 live births.
The poverty, no enough health services and untrained staff always keep mothers health at risk since the pregnancies are always serious and complicated which can only be tackled if required health facilities are provided and trained staff including gynecologists are appointed. Besides this mothers need to be educated on the complexity of pregnancy and basic medical requirements.
In order to control MMR, Balochistan government claims to have provided gynecologist, anesthesiologist and pediatrician to most of the districts headquarter hospitals across the province. Three nursing colleges in Khuzdar, Turbat and Loralai districts are said to   equip professional health workers to fulfill the needs for maternal health; however, the increased maternal mortality proves no tangible development in Balochistan.  
Former senator and chairperson of PPHI Balochistan Board of Directors (BoD), Rubina Irfan has showed her concerns over the death of discussed female in Kalat. She called on Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kalat, MS DHQ and questioned the role of district management including the district representatives.

It is not called progress when there are no doctors, medicine and even no light in case of power shortage at a hospital

Talking to the Balochistan Point Rubina Irfan said that she had discussed the miserable condition of DHQ mainly maternity care ward at DHQ Kalat with secretary Health and Minister Health to pay attention towards them. She surprised at the role and tall claims of development in Kalat’s health and education sector by the MNA and MPA of the area. “I see misuse of wealth in district Kalat but no development. It is not called progress when there are no doctors, medicine and even no light in case of power shortage at a hospital.” She added.
 Rubina Irfan stressed on dire need of well functional and equipped hospitals not only in Kalat but also in all districts of Balochistan to provide healthcare facilities to the populations, especially to those who come from far-flung areas with a hope to be treated.        

#Pakistan - Coal mines or death traps

23 workers were killed in Marwar and Sorange recently. Such accidents present an urgent need to ensure safety measures.
The most recent accident took place on May 5 when more than 23 workers were killed in two separate incidents due to explosions inside coal mines in Marwar and Sorange. Officials of Mines department told TNS that the coal mine workers were working 3,000 feet below the surface of the earth when the blasts took place, blocking the exit. According to the inquiry report, accumulation of methane, an inflammable gas, caused the explosions after they got ignited by sparks in the mines. The inquiry on the spot suggested that the incidents were due to gross negligence, as the owners of the coal mine companies did not follow safety measures.
Chief Inspector Mines Iftikhar Ahmed claims that coal mine accidents occur due to labourers’ negligence. According to the data of the provincial mines department 50 to 70 coal mine workers die annually due to mining accidents.
The Labour Union of Mines holds coal companies responsible for such tragic incidents. They allege that safety measures are not taken at most coal mines in the province. They demand that the government take action against mine owners who do not provide necessary safety equipment and do not follow safety rules and regulations.
Chaman Khan, a coal mine worker told TNS there is no concept of safety equipment in the mine which caused the death of 23 mine workers. 
Coal mining in Balochistan commenced during the early 20th century when coal extracted from the province was used in brick kilns in Punjab, Sindh and NWFP; to meet the requirements of many power houses; and fulfill the needs of the North-Western Railways, now called Pakistan Railways.
The market was vast, and the labour was cheap and abundant, so the industry flourished. Some of the prominent fields included Sorange, Degari, Mach, Khost and Shahrig. Here, coal miners earned their bread and butter while the mine owners minted their fortunes.
Nobody bothered to plan ahead or streamline coal production to meet the challenges the future might present. Balochistan’s government took it upon itself to allot the coal sites without considering whether the allottee was serious about mining and whether he had the capital to purchase standard equipment and technical back up for safety in the mines.
“We have just nine inspectors to visit 5,000 mines in Balochistan. It means that one mine can be inspected only once in two to three years,” says Chief Inspector Coal Mining Balochistan.
Mostly, coal mining is carried out by private contractors who abide by the 1923 Coal Mine Act. There are more than 5,000 coal mines in Balochistan and over 50,000 mine workers, yielding 300 tonnes of coal annually. The coal field of Mach and Sorange produce 100,000 tonnes of coal annually. The coal field of Dukki and Harnai provide 140,000 tonnes coal. Over 60,000 tonnes of coal is produced from other coal fields of Balochistan. However, there are many unregistered coal mines that are out of bounds for officials of the Inspectorate of Mines. The Balochistan Mines and Minerals Department collects Rs2.5 billion from taxes and royalty.
The apathy of provincial government departments in charge of implementing mining laws badly affected the modern development of coal mining. Consequently, most of the mines were just narrow holes without ventilation or trolley system to bring out the coal.
An ILO report in the mid 1990s said that the casualties of coal miners in Balochistan is the highest in the world. 29.9 coal mine workers are killed while excavating one million tonnes of coal. The report further said that most fatalities in coal mines are due to poor equipment, and the non-existence or poor maintenance of working standards.
In case of casualty, the workers were once paid a mere Rs30,000 as compensation by mine owners, which has now increased to Rs200,000. The government has enhanced the amount of compensation up to Rs5 lac. “The amount of compensation must be increased,” demands Bakhat Nawab, the president of Central Mines Federation, urging the government to ensure safety measures in Balochistan’s coal mines.
“We have to face numerous problems while working in the coal mines without ventilation and other safety measures. Most of the time we have to work without helmets,” says Omer Gul, a coal mine worker from Swat. The miners follow layers of coal and when the layers break, they abandon the site and begin digging in another direction. Without surveys and technical support many deposits are abandoned before proper exploitation.
Coal miners wait for the recovery of their colleagues in Quetta. Courtesy: Jamal Taraqai/EPA
Coal miners wait for the recovery of their colleagues in Quetta. Courtesy: Jamal Taraqai/EPA
The government seems oblivious of the gravity of the situation. Coal mining is primarily done by digging tunnels and then creating makeshift support structures to hold the roof steady. The moment the miner enters the coal mine he is in danger. A slight mistake in roof timbering and rock-bolting can cost him his life.
These aspects of mining are taken very seriously in most countries. There are rules and regulations, mining codes and strict inspections of methods used for minimising the dangers. “We have just nine inspectors to visit some 5,000 mines in the province. It simply means that one mine can be inspected only once in two to three years,” says Iftikhar Ahmed, Chief Inspector Coal Mining Balochistan.
Despite growing unemployment in the country, the number of coal mine workers is on rise. The majority of these coal miners are ethnic Pashtuns. Since most of the coal mines are situated in Balochistan and Sindh, these workers come to earn a living far away from their homes in rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Expressing his concern, Nawab, of the Central Mines Federation says, “Coal mine workers excavate thousands of feet below the earth. The availability of clean drinking water and presence of doctors near Balochistan’s mining areas is a mere dream for them,” he deplores. “The mine owners and the provincial government does not care to address their problems.”
The Coal Labour Union is also concerned about the increasing number of fatal accidents in Balochistan’s coal mines. A member of the union told TNS that mine owners do not make necessary safety arrangements at coal mines in interior Balochistan but the member adds that the Mines Department is also to blame for this lack of security.
Miners risk their life and limbs in mining operations. Not enough resources are made available to install a strong anti-roof collapse system; mechanical and grouted bolting mechanisms; fibrous concrete cribs; and pressure sensors for measuring loads on pillars and the rest.
Mining, in general, is dangerous and coal mining, the largest and oldest industry of Balochistan, even more so. Most accidents occur 1,500 to 5,000 feet below the surface. The inherent dangers of mining are made deadlier by the terrible working conditions, and the poor security and monitoring arrangements for mining work. It would indeed be a remarkable if the province improves the working conditions in the industry since coal mining is the only indigenous industry of the province.

#DAWN.COM - #Pakistan’s oldest newspaper blocked from sale in 'military crackdown'

By Ben Farmer

Pakistan’s authorities are accused of blocking a leading newspaper from sale after it angered the military with comments from an ousted PM suggesting Pakistani militants were behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the block on the country’s oldest paper was the latest example of Pakistan’s military trying to tame the media ahead of July’s general election.

The country’s most popular television channel, Geo TV, was temporarily taken off air across much of the country at the end of March under pressure to stop favourable coverage of Mr Sharif and end criticism of the military.
Dawn’s interview with Mr Sharif earlier this month caused a political storm and he faced widespread condemnation after saying the militants had crossed the border from Pakistan before killing 166.
The former premier approached what is seen as a red line in the country by touching on criticism of Pakistan's armed forces, especially their alleged use of proxies in India.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me.
“Why can't we complete the trial?" he said, referring to stalled court cases against several suspects.
Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba is accused of masterminding the attacks. India has long alleged "official agencies" in Pakistan were involved, but Islamabad denies the charge.
Dawn’s circulation has been curbed across large parts of the country since May 15, RSF said.
It said: “The unwarranted blocking of the distribution of one of the main independent newspapers has yet again shown that the military are determined to maintain their grip on access to news and information in Pakistan.
“It is clear that the military high command does not want to allow a democratic debate in the months preceding a general election.”
Pakistan's army called a meeting of the National Security Council after Mr Sharif’s comments, announcing the body of military chiefs and cabinet ministers “unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions".

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari takes notice of manhandling of protesters, including women outside Karachi Press Club

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has taken notice of manhandling of protesters, including women outside Karachi Press Club and asked Sindh government to ensure that peaceful protests are not dealt with use of force.

In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that holding peaceful protests or sit-ins without disturbing the law and order was democratic right of each and every citizen hence it should be protected.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said that PPP believes in human rights, rule of law and right of peaceful assembly for everyone adding that the administration should be directed to uphold and respect citizens basic rights.