Flooding- Lack of safe drinking water and diseases

Bangladesh- An eye-witness account

Waterborne diseases
Diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid, different types of deadly skin diseases, and dengue fever have been seen to grow epidemically as floodwaters recede. Health experts said the outbreaks were the usual consequence of the recession of floodwaters from floodplains. Acute shortage of safe water and food was a major obstacle in combating the diseases. All the tube-wells have been drowned by floodwater. So access to safe water is completely impossible. Local residents said during my visit in some flood-affected areas that the price of water purification tablets and oral saline went up in most of the flood affected areas. The waterborne diseases have struck 1,617,669 people since the beginning of the month according to a government estimate. But unofficial estimates put the figure at three to five times higher and the death toll no less then three times the given number by the government office. The government office said the death toll during the flood is around 4000. Private and government owned hospital and private medical practitioners in most of the districts said they are unable to cope with the increasing rush of patients.

Collapse of sewerage system
In the entire water-logged flood affected areas, filthy waters gushing from the collapsed sewerage system merged with floodwaters and inundated streets and houses, blighting the normal life of 50 million people. All the latrines are unusable. The water is poisoned now. The sufferings of man knows no bound. The total situation is intolerable. Some socio-cultural and political organizations are giving relief and have taken steps to help the people but these are scanty compared to the demand.

The scene I witnessed
I was on a boat near Arambagh, a locality near the main business area of Dhaka city. The commuters were using boats to fetch things. The maximum number of people took shelter on the house roofs, washing utensils using floodwater. I saw the water and screamed with fear as sewage mixes with floodwaters. Smells were coming out from the water and it was hard for me to stay there for long. Suddenly I saw a girl swimming through the floodwater holding a packet of saline in her teeth, as she could not manage to get a boat. I brought my boat to her and picked her on to my boat. She was Tahmina (12). She said that her brother and sister got diarrhoea last night. I told her that I have some medicine with me. I could not but hurry towards her house.

Quoted from my own daily notebook,

Mahfuzul Islam
Program Coordinator
Community-based Arsenic Mitigation Project of Uttaran Samaj Kallyan Samity (USKS)
Jhenaidah, Bangladesh

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