Please don't play with our health | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 08, 2012

Please don't play with our health

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Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 to mark the anniversary of the founding of World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. The topic of World Health Day in 2012 is ageing and health with the theme "Good health adds life to years." The focus is on how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities. Ageing concerns each and every one of us -- whether young or old, male or female, rich or poor -- no matter where we live. Life expectancy is going up in most countries, meaning more and more people live longer and enter an age when they may need health care. Meanwhile, birth rates are generally falling.
Nearly eight percent of South-East Asia's population are above the age of 60 years. The day will draw global attention to ageing to highlight it as a rapidly emerging priority that most countries in the region have yet to address adequately. The number of aged people will double by 2025 and triple by 2050, the global health body said.
"Older women outnumber and outlive older men. Gender discrimination and widowhood has a considerable impact on the health of elderly women," said Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO's Regional Director for South-East Asia. "Poor nutrition in the womb leads to disease in adulthood. Preventing diseases through immunisation, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyles will result in an elderly population that is a rich resource for families, communities and nations," she added.
The WHO expresses concern over changing social patterns where nuclear families are replacing joint families and the old and the infirm are often left at home. "These changing patterns of society are now affecting the care of the old and very old persons at home. Healthy ageing requires a significant paradigm shift in providing care to the elderly," the WHO said.
In Bangladesh, it's very hard to maintain one's health in every stage of life. When a mother is pregnant she is advised to eat healthy food, such as egg, fish, meat, milk, fruits, vegetables etc. But who will guarantee that these foods are really healthy and safe? We always find news of adulterated fruits, vegetables. One can't take seasonal fruits and vegetables because they are artificially ripened, and the same fruits are again adulterated in the off-season, then what is the right time to eat them? It is often heard that there is no milk in milk! Then what do we drink in the name of milk? Contaminated water makes our lives hell. Water scarcity is a hot issue nowadays. Wasa cannot meet the city dwellers' demand for water. Everyday, Dhaka city needs 240 crore litre water while Wasa can produce 205 to 210 crore litre.
Cholera and diarrhea are spreading. ICDDRB can't give space to patients, so they have to set up tents outside. Almost 25% of diarrhea patients bear cholera virus. Every year almost 23 to 26 lacs people are affected by diarrhea and 4.5 lacs people are affected by cholera.
River water is now highly contaminated, which affects our environment, fish, and vegetables grown along the riverside. Many people of 43 districts fell sick after eating boro rice, because underground water which is arsenic laden is used extensively in cultivating boro rice. Research says 61 districts of Bangladesh are marked as seriously arsenic prone areas, among them northern areas are more vulnerable. 65% people of Bangladesh are in danger of arsenic poisoning.
Now comes the point of health care at any age. Walking is a must for most people --young or old. But where is the place to walk? In the parks? No way, they are under control of hijackers, illegal businessmen, anti-social activities, prostitutes, drug dealers etc. Many parks and playgrounds in Dhaka have vanished. Children can't play because there are no playgrounds in their schools or homes.
Because we have to eat adulterated food and tolerate unhealthy environment, we go to a doctor for treatment. Here we again fall in the trap of groups and syndicates. We choose a doctor because of the degrees after his name. He is a government doctor but we visit him in his private chamber. After waiting for hours we get that auspicious two minutes to tell our problem to the doctor. He gives us medicine which is basically imposed by medical representatives, and sends us to those diagnostic centres from where he gets commission or percentage. Well, we listen to him, but what happen next? We buy medicine which is expired or adulterate -- we can't do anything. They give us unnecessary medical tests -- we can't do anything.
We are living with the curse of industrial waste. Hazaribagh and other localities of Dhaka city are contaminated by chemical waste from tanneries. There, almost 20 lacs people are in danger of health hazard. 89.3 % of tannery workers suffer from various diseases.
Thousands of used bottles and tubes are washed in the dirty water of rivers for reuse in hospitals, even though they are one-time use bottles or tubes. Dangerous diseases which can kill a person are spread by them. But who bothers about? We can only say to them, please don't play with our lives.
Everyone is playing with our health. In this unhealthy situation how can we try to live a healthy life? Our ageing comes in our youth. At the end of day we are happy that we are still alive. Long live our dream of a healthy life in a healthy environment of a healthy country! We are very sorry to say that our polluted surroundings don't allow us to keep good health, instead they deduct years from our lives.

The writer is Senior Lecturer, Dept. of English, ASA University Bangladesh.

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