Rv Anis Ahmed

Dhaka Sept 16, Reuter: Disease threatens to kill thousands of stricken people among homeless millions as Bangladesh recovers from a monsoon flood disaster, relief officials say.

At least 1330 people have died in the country’s worst recorded floods, but as the waters recede epidemics of intestinal disease threaten a grim aftermath.

Dr. Zafarullah Choudhury, Director of Ganashasthya Kendra, a Dutch financed voluntary medical network, said 500,000 people suffering from diarrhea had so far reported for treatment.

“The rate of disease will definitely multiply once the water goes down and people are exposed to severe contamination,” Choudhury told a news conference on Thursday.

“The real crunch is coming and thousands may perish,” he added. Another somber warning came from the Bangladesh eye care society which said thousands of malnourished children in refugee camps could be blinded by vitamin deficiency.

“A sample survey has found that 30 percent of children in the relief camps are suffering from deficiency of Vitamin A and could become permanently blind,” Chief of the society Dr. Mustafizur Rahman said in a statement.

Saidur Rahman, a representative of the British charity Oxfam, told reporters 62 percent of Bangladesh’s rural population would be without work because of the flooding.

‘President Hossain Mohammad Ershad, however, says that no one will die of starvation or disease as government stocks hold enough food and medicine.

Bangladesh has so far been pledged 280 million dollars in flood aid from various governments and international agencies.

The World food programme has promised 220,000 tons of grains and the European community 100,000 tones.

Fears of an uncertain future seem to worry most families huddling in overcrowded refugee camps in Dhaka and many dislike the idea of going back to their flood washed homes. “The floodwater has receded from my village and all that is expected now is going back,” said Wahed Ali, one of the 4,500 inmates at Dhaka’s agargaon relief camp.

“But where do we return? There is no house, no crop, and no cattle. All are gone with the floods,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

Jahanara Begum said, “Here I can expect someone to come with little food or medicine. But going back to the village would be like a nightmare. We will be there all alone fighting for life.”

The deluge in this poor South Asian country has washed away more than a million households, 2,480 bridges, 35 km (22 miles) of embankments, 3,270 km (2,040 miles) of roads and killed nearly 100,000 cattle, said the association of development agencies in Bangladesh.

The association coordinates the work of 230 foreign voluntary organisations in Bangladesh.

Most refugee camps are overcrowded and have no toilets. There are scarcely any doctors to treat hundreds of patients with intestinal illnesses.

“The Doctor and her assistants have suddenly gone away, leaving us in serious distress,” said Ali of Agaraga on camp where three children died of diarrhea in two days.

“There’s no one to bury the dead or pay for their funeral,” he said.

In the suburbs of Dhaka, some people say they have yet to come across a single relief worker.

“Many people are hungry and too many people are falling sick by drinking floodwater and eating rubbish,” said Khalil Ullah, a boatman from Ali pur village.


Article extracted from this publication >> September 23, 1988