Huge health crisis looms large
A massive health hazard looms large over the areas badly hit by Sidr, as an acute shortage of drinking water resulting in a diarrhoea outbreak has started to claim lives.
The first reports of diarrhoeal death came from Mathbaria upazila in Pirojpur, where two children died yesterday.
NGO workers in a number of worst-hit areas in Patuakhali and Barguna have also reported that hundreds are affected by the disease.
Barisal Divisional Health Director Mohammad Abdul Baset told The Daily Star last night: "Diarrhoea outbreak could become acute in two to four days. We assumed it inevitable after such a big disaster that destroyed so many homes and so much of the infrastructure."
He said water purification tablets are already being distributed and another 20 lakh tablets arrive from Dhaka to Barisal today.
The areas facing the most acute drinking water crisis are in most of the inaccessible areas, where relief agencies have hardly set foot.
Patuakhali's Golachipa and Mirzaganj and Bagerhat's Shoronkhola and Morolganj upazilas are experiencing the worst drinking water crisis, Ayub Khan, project manager, Life and Livelihood Program, NGO Forum, told The Daily Star.
Some affected areas had clean water even after the cyclone but that was contaminated in the last few days, he added.
NGO Forum along with the government and military relief agencies is trying to cleanse the water supply as soon as possible, alongside providing water purification tablets.
When The Daily Star asked a resident of Char Lata in Patuakhali whether they have received any such tablets, he said: "I have seen some people who received those, but I have not seen any."
"We are now drinking water from the pond," he said.
The pond is blackened by
now-rotting trees that fell on the water during the cyclone. Quality of the water is evident as dead fish are floating on the surface.
The Daily Star met three people suffering from diarrhoea in a section of Char Lata. They are -- Sima, 18, Kashem Mallik, 70, and Akhi Moni, who is one and a half years old.
Residents of Char Lata, which is home to around 2,500 people, say only 100-200 of them have so far received purification tablets from the army's mobile medical team working there.
An army doctor, Captain Faiz, told The Daily Star: "There have been some reports of diarrhoea outbreak, but it has not taken a severe shape as yet."
In Char Khali in Patuakhali, where Sidr killed at least 300 people, all deep tube-wells are malfunctioning and all but two shallow tube-wells have been destroyed.
A number of military personnel are busy assessing the damage and providing purification tablets along with other food relief. But over half of the 4,000 people there do not have any purification tablets.
In remote, inaccessible areas where relief has not been substantial, drinking water crisis is much worse.
In Golachipa alone, survivors in Char Lata, Char Agunmukha, Chalita Bunia, Char Anda, Char Bangla, Char Hair, and Char Mumtaz have no access to drinking water.
In neighbouring Dashmina upazila, Char Hadi, Char Borhan and Char Shahjalal are witnessing the same crisis along with another two chars in Baufal Upazila --Char Barret and Char Kardorma.
"A lot of people usually die of diarrhoea; it may not be related to the cyclone. But we have not received any information about drinking water shortage," Barisal Divisional Commissioner Mohammad Harun Chowdhury told The Daily Star last night.
"People in villages drink pond water all the time; it is nothing unusual there," he added, when informed about people drinking water from polluted ponds.