AS WINTER arrives, people, especially the old and children, increasingly fall ill because of cold-related diseases. Hospitals in Dhaka and other parts of the country are now struggling to deal with a surging number of children and elderly people suffering from such diseases amidst a cold wave sweeping over the country. Physicians were quoted by New Age as saying that hospitals were experiencing a great rush of patients with complaints of cold-related diseases. Children, as New Age reported on Thursday, are suffering mostly from acute respiratory infections, pneumonia, bronchiolitis and diarrhoea while elderly people are visiting hospitals with asthma, bronchitis, acute respiratory infections and other ailments caused by cold. It does not require an expert to say that the winter further setting in, the situation will worsen. It is also no surprise that people fall victim to cold-related diseases during every winter. What, however, is worrisome is that a large number of poor and low-income people all over the country, including the capital, still lack any effective means to ward off the menace from the bites of cold.
Because of successive governments’ general indifference to the health sector, since independence, most of the public hospitals in district headquarters, let alone in upazilas or other rural areas, lack adequate human resources and logistics to tackle such a situation. It needs to be pointed out that these people can hardly afford the expenses charged by private hospitals and clinics predominantly run on a commercial basis. One may recall, in this connection, that a number of old people and children die every year, particularly in the north and the south where the number of poverty-stricken people is still higher, on the one hand, and winter comes faster and becomes colder, on the other. One may also recall that scores of people reportedly had rushed to the public hospitals in those areas with their newborn babies suffering from critical cold-related diseases during the past winter, only to get disappointed as either the hospitals lacked proper arrangement to treat such cases or the equipment they had were out order.
It is true that every winter has witnessed many initiatives, including distribution of warm clothes among the poor, taken by the government, social and cultural organisations and individuals to help the vulnerable groups to fight the chilly weather. But, regrettably, it is also true that all such initiatives have been taken only when it is too cold for one to survive. It is imperative for the government to take expeditious steps to protect the poor from cold bites and deal with the diseases mentioned earlier while social and cultural organisations need to come forward to shore up the effort to help those having no means to fight cold on their own.
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