Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 6, Tuesday, August 3, 2004




ways to confront the flood situation

Getting safe water
Everywhere the eyes turn, all they see is water, and yet none of it is drinkable. During a flood this is the worst suffering there is. According to Zahurul Alam, executive engineer of System Operation and Control Division (SOC), WASA, "In the capital, among all the inundated areas Rampura, Bashabo, Goran, Khilgaon, Nondipara and Demra are the worst hit. Sewer lines, drainage and water supply systems have entirely collapsed." 44 pump centres in the city are currently under water. People living in the shelters and those who have still not left their houses are living in hazardous conditions. WASA is distributing free water amongst the flood-affected people twice a day. Currently they are running the project with 15 trolleys, 9 boats full of jerry cans and some Gazi plastic tanks. This distribution is being carried out in all the worst hit areas. All the 6 zonal offices and SOC office is also distributing free water. The phone number of zone 1 is 9356957, for zone 2, 7315249, zone 3, 8120205, zone 4,9003842, zone 5, 9899340 and for zone 6, 9358615. You can also call the System Operation and Control office, situated at Kakrail paanir tank compound. Their number is 9358615.

Keeping the water safe
In the places where there is less water or the water is about to rise immediately, attach a thick plastic hose or metal pipes to the tap. In the case of plastic hose you can take it inside the house. If you attach metal pipes, make them long enough so that they stay above the water level. Build barriers with cement and bricks to prevent water from entering the reserve tank. Seal the tank if necessary. During flood this process is not enough. Those who live outside the affected area should take precaution too as contaminated water may be supplied. Use bleaching powder or chlorine to decontaminate the water in the reservoir.

Defeating Diarrhoea
According to the ICDDR' B hospital source, till the filing of this story, around 515 new diarrhoea patients are being admitted daily to their hospital. The disease is spreading fast. The best way to defeat the disease is to drink safe water. If there is a case of diarrhoea nothing beats the oral saline. However ICDDR'B sources tell us that even after all the media hype about home-made oral saline, many people still do not know its proper use, specially in the rural areas. In the case of infants, some people harbour the misconception that if the mother drinks oral saline it will work on the baby. Also oral saline should not be used after 12 hours. Also, never boil the saline thinking that it will be usable after that. Rural people regularly miss these essentials. During the flood and any other time, always keep food covered. Lots of liquids help in case of diarrhoea. Continue drinking saline till the loose motion ceases. If the case is serious, transfer the patient to a hospital.

Keep medicines handy
Not just diarrhoea, floods bring about a lot of other ailments. To prevent them, always keep some medicine handy. Emotil, Metronidazol for loose motion, Paracetamol, Napa, and Ace for minor fever and Inflam for pain relief. Inflam should be taken after meals and Antacid if the person has acidity problem. You medicine box should contain a few strips of band-aid, Savlon or Dettol for minor cuts, and lots of Orsaline. For minor skin problems keep a bottle of Eskaboil handy.

Foods that should not be salvaged
In the worst-hit areas the supply of food is very scarce. Many people try to salvage food that went under water. During flood it is advised that food should not be salvaged unless it is in a container that protects it, or it can be thoroughly sterilized. Cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are foods that should not be salvaged.

Extra care for pregnant mothers
Pregnant mothers are more vulnerable than any one else. They require extra attention. Surfaces around the house become slippery during the flood. Make sure the mothers do not fall. If possible, move them to a relative's house. If the mother is in her advanced stage, immediately move her to a hospital where she will get proper care.

Look after your kids
Children might take a different perspective of flood. They might think of this as some sort of ideal adventure. With everything that is going on all around it is easy to lose track of the little devils. Just a minute's inattention can lead to a major disaster and a lifetime of regret. So no matter how hard life might be during the flood, keep an extra eye on your precious angels so that they do not slip in the water. Even a little contact with the filthy water can cause severe illness. At the entrance make a fence that reaches above the head of your child. Wood or bamboo, whatever you use to make the fence, place them vertically so that the kids cannot climb up.

Watch out for electric wires
This year's deluge is just a reminder of past experiences. Disconnected electric wires killed several people during the flood of 1998. At home electric wires should be checked during the water rise. If there are any faulty wires they should be repaired immediately. Do not allow power cord connections to become wet or to lie under water. Disconnect any electric appliance if the house is submerged. Turn off the main switch if necessary. Refrain from touching any wires loose or connected when you are in the water or when your hands are wet. When you are outside the house watch out for more disconnected wires. If there is any put a sign so that others know and inform the DESA authority as soon as possible.

Beware of creepers and crawlers
Like humans, crawlers will search for dry land as well. Snakes, insects, and other creepers usually find shelter in our homes. Living with snake is dangerous and therefore precautions should be taken. During the night do not move without a flashlight. Keep bottles of Carbolic acid with the cap open inside the house to prevent snakes from entering. It is available in any store that sells spirit or acid.

Robbers are on the loose
There have been reports of robbery in the residential areas by people posing as toll collectors for flood-affected people. This has happened in mass scale in 1998. Do not suspect everyone who asks for a toll but remain extra cautious. Do not leave the main gate open not even for a minute. Don't let anyone in unless you can make sure of his or her identity. Guards should be on alert round the clock.

Fake relief workers
There are always some people who try to benefit from other people's misery. Many people have started taking tolls from houses and vehicles. Not all of them will use the money for flood-affected people. Some of them will put it in their own pocket. Keep in mind that the Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned this type of toll collection since July 30th. If you do want to help, select a group that is already involved in the relief process, check their credentials and then offer help. Those who are seriously involved in the relief process are suffering because of this announcement. They should change their policy. Instead of money they should ask for dry food and medicine.

Outrageous it is…
We saw the heartbreaking photo in the cover page of the Daily Star on 29 July. An elderly woman with a blank look in her eyes, holding a sack full of inedible rice and potatoes. She could not believe that someone could do such a thing to her. This act was simply inhumane. Whoever is responsible for this act should be severely punished. Also a segment of DU student involved in the relief process complained that they have received expired medicine from a renowned drugstore of the city. A message to those who laugh at other people's misery: please stop this type of heinous acts.

By Shahnaz Parveen
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain

Treating contaminated water
Zahurul Alam of System Operation and Control Division (SOC) also tells us, "There are already lots of leaks in the lines and sewer elements are getting in through those leaks". In emergencies, or as a temporary measure, water from contaminated sources can be disinfected by the following methods:
First of all try to secure safe drinking water from an approved or emergency source if possible like the WASA. If this is not possible, treat all water before drinking. If the tap water is not clear, it should not be used without treatment. Allow the water to stand in a container until the sediment settles and pour off the clear water into a clean vessel.
Liquid chlorine helps clean water. Just add six drops of liquid chlorine to one gallon of water and mix. Wait thirty minutes after adding the chlorine before using the water for drinking or cooking purposes. Chlorine is available in most drug stores.
The water can also be purified by boiling. Bring the water to a full boil for at least five minutes. During flood, however, it is sometimes hard to find dry fuel or even a dry place. So using water purifying tablets such as Halotab are the best solution. Use one tablet per litre of water. Use after 30 minutes. Halotab is available in any drug store.
One of the above treatments should be continued until the quality of water can be secured. Remember that the safety of water cannot be judged by colour, odour, or taste. The organisms that cause water-borne diseases cannot be seen.

Vigilance about the criminally insane…
Once again, our memory takes us back to the flood of 1998. Back then different newspapers reported cases of sexual molestation of girls coming to flood shelters. This time let us be more vigilant and make sure that it is not repeated. Tabassum Ara Rina, program manager of Nari Moitree who has been working on adolescent girls told us "This year there haven't been any such reports yet. Remembering the incidents of 98 we are being very watchful." Nari Moitree is currently working in the shelters of Dhalpur, Meradia, Goran, Madartek, and Rajarbag. For girls they have managed separate corners. Plain-clothes policemen are guarding the shelters. They have established community watch groups to prevent any incident of sexual harassment. During the night it is being made sure that some one accompanies the girls if they go to answer the nature's call. More activities like these are needed to protect women especially adolescents.

Efforts to help the flood affected people
Flood-relief projects are going on with the help of many groups, although these efforts are still insufficient. We visited DU campus to see the activities there. Young people are working really hard to help the affected people. These people are going door to door asking for donations. In the cafeteria of IER we met some of them. Bonnyarta Shahojogita Kendro, a formation of four small groups namely Shuchana Adhyan Chakra, Deasholai, Progotir Paribrajak Dal, and Bangladesh Chhatra Federation. Many general students from different dormitories go there everyday to make roti and saline for distribution. Everyday they visit the affected areas in groups to distribute food, medicine and clothes. Abul Hasan Rubel, one of workers of the platform told us "If anyone wishes to help us, we will accept it. Money, food, and even with manual labour to prepare the food or distribute them will be appreciated." So if any one reading this story wishes help just go to the IER café situated beside the resister building of DU.
The Bangladesh Chhatra Union and Bangladesh Chhatra Front are working in the TSC of DU. In the gymnasium of DU, BCU is preparing saline. In the Fine Arts, students are selling paintings to raise money for the affected people. As we have mentioned before there are some people who are collecting money for their own benefit. These are the groups who are really working for the benefit of the flood-affected people. Different dormitories and departments of DU are also working for the cause. If you have plans to help then just visit the DU campus. Every little effort counts in a crisis situation like this.



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