Monsoon flood has left half of Bangladesh’s districts underwater, leaving nearly 1 million families stranded and cut off in their villages while relief and treatment facilities became hampered due to COVID-19, said International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The monsoon season floods mean a high proportion of the population in South Asia is vulnerable to diseases such as dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and cholera. In 2019, Bangladesh experienced its deadliest outbreak of dengue with more than 101,000 cases and almost 180 deaths.
So far almost 17.5 million people have been affected and more than 630 killed by major floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, according to government figures.
Feroz Salah Uddin, secretary general of Bangladesh Red Crescent said, ‘This is one of the biggest monsoon floods we have faced in many years and the worst may be yet to come as we face growing risks of malaria, dengue, diarrhoea as well as this worsening COVID-19 pandemic.’
Previous years had showed how devastating these diseases could be for communities in South Asia, so Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in the region were urgently ramping up their flood response activities, which included distributing mosquito nets and working with communities to reduce their exposure to diseases like malaria and dengue.
COVID-19 restrictions hampered efforts to destroy mosquito-breeding sites and raise awareness in communities of how to prevent the spread of diseases like dengue and malaria, ahead of this year’s monsoon season. At the same time, restrictions on movement of people and increased screening for COVID-19 may be helping to keep other diseases from exploding for now.
Abhishek Rimal, regional emergency health coordinator of Asia Pacific International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, ‘Vast inland seas of stagnant water create an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, with soaring risk of diseases like dengue and malaria. Millions of people are also gathered in confined spaces or sleeping in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and protection from mosquitoes, creating the perfect storm for the spread of mosquito and water-borne diseases.’
Rimal added, ‘The critical focus on saving lives in this pandemic and preventing the further spread of COVID-19 has diverted their resources from prevention activities such as dengue and malaria are going untreated. We are seeing evidence that people are reluctant to go to health facilities because they fear catching COVID-19 and getting more sick.’
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