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Health concerns growing as flood waters recede

The risk of waterborne diseases is higher during Bangladesh's annual flood season. Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN

The incidence of diarrhoea has increased in the wake of heavy flooding in 23 out of 64 districts, with flood waters now dropping fast in the north, central and south-central regions.

For the third consecutive day, flood waters along the Brahmaputra-Jamuna and the Ganges-Padma river systems continued to drop, while 57 of the 73 flood-causing rivers also registered a decrease, including the Meghna, on 11 September.

“The situation is improving significantly. This will continue for the next three to four days and the floods will largely be over by the end of this week,” said Muhammad Ariful Islam, assistant engineer of the country’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC).

The floods, which seriously affected over 800,000 people and destroyed close to 10,000 homes, left six people dead, five of them children.

More than 15,000 people have taken shelter in 38 sub-districts, as scores struggle for access to safe drinking water, food and fuel for cooking.

Diarrhoea spreading

As flood waters recede, there has been a marked increase in water-borne diseases, especially diarrhoea, pneumonia and skin infections, among flood survivors, many of whom are still awaiting relief.

The number of diarrhoea patients visiting the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh in Dhaka has more than doubled.

The number of patients reached a peak of more than 600 in one day on 6 September – against an average of 300 for this time of year, the centre reported.

To deal with the overflow, it has erected tents in the parking areas adjacent to the hospital with a capacity of up to 750 and employed mroe doctors, nurses, health workers and attendants.

Relief operation

The government has allotted 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) of rice and food grains to 22 districts, including the “monga” (seasonal famine-prone) and flood-affected districts.

“The overall situation has not yet necessitated massive relief operations from the government,” Food and Disaster Management Secretary Molla Wahiduzzaman said after an inter-ministry meeting this week.

The government had allocated close to US$150,000 in cash and 10,000 MT of rice to distribute among the flood-affected people, said Wahiduzzaman.

Photo: Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN
To deal with the overflow, the Intenational Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh, in Dhaka has erected hundreds of beds in its parking areas
At the same time, health officials and the Bangladesh army are distributing medicine and oral saline among flood-affected people.

More than 90 medical teams have been sent across the flood-affected districts to treat those suffering from dysentery, diarrhoea and other diseases, said the health ministry.

But many complain it is not enough. At two shelters, Raidasbari School and Al-Furkan Kindergarten School, in north-western Gaibandha District, crowds of flood survivors, driven from their homes after the Gaibandha dam was breached, gathered.

“We have been staying here for seven days but no one has come to help us with food and drinking water,” complained Jogesh Chandra.

Worst affected were those living in the remote “char” (river island) areas, many of whom were not reached until 11 September, according to aid workers.

Hundreds of chars have been submerged, trapping tens of thousands and prompting many people to shift to higher ground along flood embankments.

Rice subsidies

Meanwhile, the government’s Open Market Sale (OMS) of rice, a staple food, looks set to continue with a view to providing cheap rice to the flood-affected people.

The idea is that by subsidising coarse rice the government can ease pressure on fine rice prices, by reducing demand for the latter.

“OMS operations have influenced the market positively. The price of rice has fallen by one taka/kg (2 cents) with the impact of its sale in open market,” Badrul Hasan, director of the Department of Food, said.

To date, more than 55,000 MT of rice has been sold under the OMS programme, the government said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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