Flood situation improves in Dhaka

Six-year old Sofura Khatun spent 18 days at the Badda flood relief camp in Dhaka along with members of her family - her father Ali Mia (43), mother Khodeja Begum (32) and brother Abul Bashar (16). The family returned to their slum at Kamalapur, by Dhaka’s central railway station, only this afternoon.

“I didn’t want to come to this camp. Camps do not have safe drinking water, good latrines or healthcare facilities. My daughter contracted a very bad skin disease while at the camp. Only oral saline was available at the camp clinic. There was no other medicine,” Khodeja Begum said.

“I feel relieved that I could finally return to my own house! We are not dole seekers. We leave only when we are compelled to,” she added.

Many like Khodeja Begum have returned home after spending days at various flood shelters throughout the Bangladeshi capital. The camps were constructed by city authorities when the eastern fringes of the city of 11 million were flooded, following unusually heavy monsoon rains this year - affecting 10 million people in 39 of the country’s 64 districts, and resulting in over 800 deaths.

Only 90 of the 1,400 people who took refuge at the Badda camp in mid-August have yet to leave the camp. Most are from poorer residential areas on the eastern fringes of the city; their houses either under water or still inaccessible by road.

''I didn’t want to come to this camp. Camps do not have safe drinking water, good latrines or healthcare facilities.''

Being very low and surrounded by the Shitalakhya, the Turag and the Tongi rivers, this part of the city, was particularly badly hit by the floods.

However, flood waters have receded from most parts of the affected eastern areas of the city and most of the 340 relief camps opened by city authorities and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have since closed down.

“Some parts of the area remain under ankle to knee-deep water even during the dry season. Those are not flood-affected areas. From our point of view the floods are over for Dhaka city, at least for the time being”, city mayor Sadeq Hossain Khoka said.

Diarrhoea under control

“The most daunting task facing us is to keep the post-flood outbreak of diarrhoea and malnutrition under control. We are providing safe drinking water to the slum dwellers. Our medical teams are constantly keeping watch on the poor residential areas of the city especially for any news of diarrhoeal outbreaks. So far, nothing alarming has happened. We are doing our best to prevent any such outbreak in Dhaka city”, he said.

More on Bangladesh floods
Number of diarrhoea cases stabilising
Flood victims face rising food prices
Flood waters recede, but challenges remain
Effective systems keep diarrhoea in check even during floods

Dr Abdus Sabur of Dhaka’s International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease and Research, Bangladesh remains hopeful about the nation’s ability to keep incidences of diarrhoeal diseases well under control.

“The number of patients has steadily come down at our hospital over the last 15 days. Yesterday 302 patients were admitted. It had exceeded 500 during the peak flood days,” Dr Sabur said.

Meanwhile, Sofura and her brother Abul Bashar are happy to be back in their home in the slum at Kamalapur.

“This place is dry now. There is no stinky sludge around. We are very happy to be home. I will begin work from tomorrow”, said Sofura’s brother, Abul Bashar, a local rickshaw driver earning just under US$2 a day.

Bashar’s father Ali Mia works as a labourer at Kamalapur railway station. His wife Khodeja works as a house maid at the nearby Motijheel government colony.

“Bad days are over. We must get back to work”, urged Khodeja Begum, her husband Ali Mia nodding with approval.

sa/ds/cb