Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  
Front Page

Floods cause respiratory trouble for children

Thousands of children under the age of five are suffering from Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) or difficulties in breathing in the flood-affected areas.

Experts say about 23 lakh children of the country get affected by the ARI every year. But during the flooding, most of the children especially the infants at the overcrowded flood centres in fluctuating temperatures are becoming the victims of the air-borne, mostly bacterial disease.

The Unicef's information and advocacy section has warned that the number of the children now suffering from ARI might increase substantially during the floods. It says about 50 lakh children, mostly infant, are now suffering from the disease.

"We have report from one single flood shelter where about 550 children are suffering from ARI and I'm sure the picture is similar at each flood centre," said Naseem-ur-Rahman, chief of the section.

He said, "As an emergency, we've already supplied a substantial quantity of oral saline, intra-venous saline and water purification tablets to contain the disease. But this is little aid to fight the disease and we're looking forward to supplying more."

At several flood centres in and around the city, children are falling sick with great difficulties in breathing. Doctors were hardly seen at these shelters to treat the sick.

Medical experts say the risk of ARI infection among healthy children in a crowded environment is four to five folds and a course of antibiotic drugs is a must to prevent the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) observes that 60 percent of ARI deaths can be prevented by selective use of antibiotics.

The Health Directorate's monitoring cell, which was opened to provide information on all diseases in the flood-hit areas, could not give any information about ARI. However, the civil surgeons of different districts admitted ARI is posing a great threat to public health at the flood shelters.

"We're unable to cope with the increasing numbers of ARI patients, who are mostly infants," said a civil surgeon asking not to be named.

To prevent deaths when children develop ARI, it is crucial to recognise the signs -- a cough accompanied by difficulty in short or rapid breathing -- and provide immediately appropriate health care to the patients.