As floodwaters recede, disease likely to be a concern for Maharashtra

Unsanitary and unsanitary conditions could lead to multiple epidemics, affecting the health of residents of flood-affected areas in Maharashtra

Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, visits areas affected by flooding in the state. Photo: @CMOMahashtra / Twitter

Western Maharashtra was hit by severe flooding in the last week of July 2021. Some 213 people have died and thousands are in need of rehabilitation. As the floodwaters slowly recede, the specter of multiple epidemics looms over the region, health workers have warned.

The affected districts included Ratnagiri, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur. Pune and Thane were also affected. The government of Maharashtra has announced immediate aid of 10,000 rupees for each person affected by the floods.

“Relief camps were mostly set up in schools, with around 200 to 300 people sharing two toilets. These conditions are a breeding ground for disease, ”Dr Milind Bhoi, a doctor who runs the non-profit Bhoi Foundation and volunteers in Satara district, told this reporter.

Vinay Dubey, an aid worker and social activist working in Ratnagiri district, said residents had to use portable toilets because the toilets in the relief camps were clogged with mud.

“However, the number of these portable toilets was not sufficient, which led people to resort to open defecation, which poses a direct risk of several bacterial and parasitic infections,” he said. -he adds.

He noted that there had been a huge delay in cleaning up flood-affected areas after the waters receded. “This means that there are dead animals lying on the roads. Imagine the diseases that will arise because of this, ”he said.

Floods have been responsible for more than half of disasters in India since the 1990s, according to an analysis by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs.

Flood-based research across the country has highlighted the serious short- and long-term health consequences of flooding, ranging from stunting and malnutrition in children to infectious diseases and mental illnesses like stress, anxiety and depression.

“As the water in the flood affected areas is contaminated and sanitation is a problem, we are seeing an increase in waterborne infections like diarrhea, cholera and leptospirosis,” Bhoi said.

Several medical teams shipped doxycycline and paracetamol tablets to areas affected by flooding last week to prevent diseases like leptospirosis and gastroenteritis. Chiplun, the worst-affected town of Ratnagiri, has received more than 25,000 tablets according to a report published in the India time.

The Maharashtra Ministry of Health has also increased the supply of vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to areas affected by the floods with the aim of preventing co-infections like Covid-19 and malaria both .

The immediate health problem, however, was fungal infections affecting citizens in the flood-affected districts, according to Dr Aatif Mohimtule, a volunteer doctor in Khed, Ratnagiri.

“There is a huge amount of wet sludge and mud left after the water was removed, which mainly caused fungal infections,” he said.

The areas affected by the floods had received supplies of syrups for children, tetanus vaccines, dressings, ointments, etc. But Mohimtule said they were facing a severe shortage of fungal skin infection drugs, which was the immediate need of the hour.

Dubey added that there was very little access to clean drinking water, which meant people relied on Bisleri bottles. These can be unaffordable for citizens from lower income strata.

Several aid workers also complained about a mismatch between the amount of medical supplies entering and the amount needed on the ground.

They attributed this to a lack of communication and chaos. There was also no coordination between non-governmental organizations and relief activities at the municipal level.

“Although we have received some help from the mayor of Khed town, most of the relief is carried out by non-profit organizations, with little communication between us and the officials, who have their own rules to follow.” , Dubey said.

Amita Dhumal, Ratnagiri’s deputy collector, said that nonprofits were involved in the talks on flood relief interventions and that there were continued attempts to coordinate with nonprofits to emergency relief work.

Yet doctors and aid workers predicted that these relief measures were ultimately temporary, leaving people in flood-affected areas to suffer long-term health problems without adequate medical assistance for the complications.

“I have experienced disasters like floods and earthquakes before. Everyone shows up to help when disaster strikes, but the work still needs to be done months afterward. Unfortunately, that’s never the priority, ”Bhoi said.

He said he had gone to Satara with psychiatrists to offer grief counseling to several people who had lost their loved ones in the floods. “Can you imagine that grief counseling is a unique thing? ” He asked.

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