Health risks may hit an alarming level in 20 flood-affected districts in the country as around 1.7 million people are having a very hard time making their living in the areas where they are starving for food and safe drinking water.
Rocked and displaced by the devastating floods, some 322,000 people have taken shelter at 1,330 centres in the districts, while many are living in the open in elevated areas or on school premises without food, drinking water and medicines.
Drinking water and sanitation inaccessible
Over 12,700 tube wells have submerged in Kurigram alone, according to the Department of Public Health Department (DPHE).
Explaining the lack of access to safe drinking water, flood victim Samosto Begum from Char Parbatipur in the district told the Dhaka Tribune: “No one is getting food and drinking water. Women are suffering a lot as toilets are unusable. We have to walk a long way to fetch water.
“People have no choice but to defecate in open spaces”
The dearth of sanitation facilities and safe water has already started to cause water-borne diseases among the affected people in the districts.
Ayub Ali, chairman of Jatrapur union parishad in Kurigram, said: “Though some tube wells have been installed to supply safe drinking water to victims, they are unable to meet the people’s needs.”
More tube wells are needed, he said.
Conceding that district lacks basic sanitation facilities, Ayub said: “I informed the government authorities concerned of the issue and hope that some makeshift toilets would be arranged within a short time.”
In Dinajpur, some 144,553 tube wells have gone under floodwaters, forcing locals to drink unsafe, polluted water.
The government has allocated 16,004 tonnes of rice and Tk49,881,950 as general relief to the people. The district authorities concerned said they had already distributed a considerable amount of the disaster aid, but our district correspondents found a large number of the flood victims complaining that they had not received relief materials as yet.
Some 1,219 local medical teams have been deployed in the districts to address the resultant health problems. Currently, 116 medical teams are working in Dinajpur.
The victims complained, however, that the teams are supplying medicines for only diarrhoea, cold and fever, while they are suffering from numerous diseases and lack of water purification tablets.
Civil Surgeon of Lalmonirhat Dr Amiruzzaman said: “In order to ensure health services in the district, we have deployed 54 medical teams.”
Patient with different water-borne diseases are taking treatment from the teams, he said.
Speaking to our correspondent in the district, locals, however, said they did not see any medical team render services to the affected people and that the medical teams are on papers only.
People are taking health services from the teams run by the army Border Guard Bangladesh, they added.
Awareness campaign programmes
Dr Md Khairul Islam, executive director of WaterAid Bangladesh, highlighted the need for running awareness campaigns through media.
Putting emphasis on pure drinking water, Khairul Islam said: “To prevent water-borne diseases, we need to focus on ensuring access to safe drinking water, and clean water must be used for all purposes.”
Our Lalmonirhat correspondent Moazzem Hossain, Kurigram correspondent Ariful Islam and Dinajpur correspondent Faruk Hossain contributed to this report.