Little Samia, accompanied by her mother, was found waiting in a long queue on the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) premises for treatment on Sunday.
She has been suffering from a chronic breathing problem, but her mother could not take her to hospital as she dared not go out with her two-year-old daughter as a severe cold wave is sweeping over the country.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Samia’s mother Amina Begum said: “We live in Kamrangir Char, an area which is much colder than other places in the city. Therefore, I could not take her to doctor.
“But now, it seems my daughter’s condition will deteriorate if I do not take her to doctor.”
Visiting two hospitals in Dhaka, this correspondent found over 400 people, mostly children, crowding the hospitals with various cold-related diseases.
Every day, an average of 150 children with pneumonia, bronchiolitis, fever and breathing problems visit the DMCH, according to hospital sources.
Dr Sayeda Anwar, head of the DMCH paediatric department, said: “We have adequate preparations to provide medical services to people on an emergency basis. But some patients prefer staying at home to visiting doctors because of the intolerable cold weather, which in turn cause their physical conditions to deteriorate.
“If a child is less than one year old and breathes over 50 times per minute, or he or she is over a year old and breathes more than 40 times per minute, they must be taken to doctor soon, or their problems may worsen due to the severe cold waves.”
More than 200 children with pneumonia and diarrhoea have been admitted to Dhaka Shishu (children) Hospital in the past few days. Every day, an average of 400 children are being given treatment at the hospital’s outdoor department — a figure twice the usual number of patients turning up at the department.
Dr Rizwanul Ahsan Bipul, assistant professor at the hospital, said: “As the number of patients at this hospital shoots up in the winter, we take preparations in advance so we can provide services to this many patients at a time.”
The number of patients has already doubled the normal volume as the cold wave continues, he added.
Officials at the hospital said over 6,000 children have been treated there in the last two weeks.
Bipul suggested mothers continue breastfeeding their infants and keep them cosy and warm, and for children who love to play outside their home, he suggested avoiding dusts and staying tidy.
Bipul also stressed taking fresh vegetables and fruits as well as avoiding street and oily food.