29/07/2004

Bangladesh's children face epidemic threat: Unicef

Millions of children in Bangladesh's capital city of Dhaka are facing an increasing risk of potentially fatal diseases as sewers mix with the floodwaters that have devastated the south Asian country, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned.

As the dank floodwater stagnates, children face an increasing risk of disease. More than one-third of Dhaka is inundated.

Polluted sludge has been gushing out of manholes in many areas of Dhaka, which has a population of more than 10 million. Diseases such as acute respiratory infection – a key killer of Bangladeshi children – as well as diarrhoea, watery dysentery, jaundice, typhoid and scabies are being reported.

"In urban areas, poor areas, the situation for children is extremely dangerous,” Unicef’s Bangladesh Chief of Communications Naseem-Ur Rehman said.

“The water in the cities is filled with filth and the children who are playing and walking through the water are vulnerable. They are easy prey to infectious diseases."

More than 400 people throughout the country of 124 million have died in the floods from drowning, injuries and other causes and over 25 million have been displaced by the floodwaters, caused by the monsoon season.

The waters in the north-eastern and northern regions are slowly receding, but in the central and south-central regions, flood levels could remain at standstill for a few more days.

Unicef has distributed two million purifying tablets, with another three million tablets in the pipeline. Some 1,120 sanitary latrines have also been installed at various flood shelters.

(gmcg)

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