Friday, 7 March 2014 | MYT 7:39 PM
Probe after 41 children die in Pakistan desert community
KARACHI, March 07, 2014 (AFP) - Authorities in southern Pakistan on Friday ordered a probe into the death of 41 children who reportedly died of pneumonia and malnutrition in a stretch of the Thar desert.
Officials were alarmed by media reports from Mithi, one of the least developed and most remote districts in southern Sindh province, suggesting that more than 100 people had died because of famine and malnutrition.
"It is a very serious matter and we have deputed a senior member of the party and officials to probe into the deaths," Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh, told reporters.
The minister also ordered the arrest of senior health officials for neglecting their duties, saying they had failed to move the children to hospitals in the bigger cities.
Shah said the cause of the deaths would be confirmed by the investigation but apparently pneumonia and malnutrition were among the reasons.
The chief minister said the government records showed the death of 41 children but there were fears that the actual number may be higher.
The Thar desert begins around 300 kilometres (200 miles) from Karachi and runs up to the border with India, where it joins the Rajasthan desert.
Poor health and communication infrastructure keeps the district disconnected from mainstream population.
The chief minister admitted the authorities had not done all they could to look after the needs of the people.
"I admit that the distribution of wheat was not appropriate," Shah said.
In 2000, the desert suffered a famine that killed 90 percent of the livestock, the economic mainstay of the area.