Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Floods promote cholera, diarrhea in Bangladesh


Health workers in Bangladesh battled diarrhea and cholera yesterday as international aid began to flow in South Asia to help millions lacking water and food after the worst monsoon floods in decades.

The death toll was well above 2,000 yesterday with 16 more deaths reported in Bangladesh and 19 in India's Bihar state overnight.

Rains have halted across much of the massive Himalayan flood plain from southern Nepal to the eastern delta nation of Bangladesh, with the focus now on combating a host of water-borne diseases, health officials said.

At Bangladesh's biggest diarrhea hospital in the capital Dhaka, doctors like Alejandro Cravioto were working around the clock amid hundreds of extra beds under tents to help flood victims.

"It's like a war-zone situation," he said, as medical staff patrolled the tents with megaphones, urging patients to take their medication and stay hydrated.

"Some patients are very ill but the treatment is extremely effective," said Cravioto, the hospital's executive director.

Thousands of villages are under water, threatened by disease, while millions are still displaced in India and Bangladesh and desperate for relief aid.

Several countries and international agencies have pledged assistance and money to help victims, including the EU which has put up an initial 4 million euros (US$5.5 million).

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah ordered emergency supplies to be rushed to flood-hit Bangladesh, the official SPA news agency reported on Thursday night, adding that US$50 million was being sent to cover urgent needs in the disaster zone.

UNICEF has said it is working with officials in Bihar, hit by the heaviest flooding in 30 years, to conduct medical surveillance and inoculate children against disease, particularly measles.

The Indian government announced emergency aid for flood victims with Bihar, where at least 1.1 million hectares of farmland have been inundated and 14 million people affected, scheduled to get US$37 million.

Early estimates of the monsoon's cost to India stand at about US$320 million, though the figure is expected to rise.

The Bangladesh government has urged citizens and foreign donors to help feed 9 million displaced people.

The annual monsoon rains that soak the subcontinent from June through September are crucial for the farm-dependent economies in the region, but also wreak death and destruction.

India's home ministry reported 1,550 deaths across the country from this year's monsoon up to Thursday afternoon.

The figures do not include scores of people still missing from numerous boating accidents, including one in Bihar which police said killed 65 people on Monday night.

In Bangladesh the toll reached 362 after more deaths overnight, the food and disaster management ministry said.

In Nepal, authorities said the lowland plains had not received any rains for the past two days and that the death toll remained at 95. Many of the 330,000 people displaced were returning to villages from relief camps.

The monsoon floods are part of what the World Meteorological Organization said on Tuesday was a global pattern of record extreme weather conditions.

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