Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk as floods erode sanitation – UN

Millions of children in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka are facing an increasing risk of potentially fatal diseases as fetid sewers mix with the floodwaters that have devastated the South Asian country, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned. “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.” The sludge is gushing out of manholes in many areas of Dhaka, which has a population of more than 10 million. Diseases acute respiratory infection – a key killer of Bangladeshi children – as well as diarrhoea, watery dysentery, jaundice, typhoid and scabies are being reported. As the dank floodwater stagnates, children face an increasing risk of disease. More than one-third of Dhaka is inundated. All roads in Motijheel, the commercial hub of the country, are submerged. Anyone wishing to go to the central bank must wade through thigh-deep water. 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 responded early with relief and rescue operations, drawing on its strong presence in the field, with 40 programme coordinators in as many districts working closely with Government to ensure that the needs of children are served at this difficult time. In response to the urgent need to help purify drinking water, UNICEF has distributed 2 million purifying tablets, with another 3 million tablets in the pipeline. Some 1,120 sanitary latrines have also been installed at various flood shelters.