Bangladesh floods: MSF prepares a new intervention

Over the last few weeks, Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka has been heavily affected by flooding, with low-lying areas of the city submerged and a deterioration in the general hygiene situation as access to drinking water becomes more difficult. As a result, Dhaka has seen a huge increase in the number of people affected by diarrhoea, including cases of severe diarrhoea and cholera. MSF has been asked for assistance by the International Centre for Diarrhoea Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) which is based in the city. At this time of the year the ICDDR,B would normally admit about 200 severe diarrhoea cases a day, while on 10 August this number had already reached 1,000. 30% of these were confirmed as cholera cases. Last week the admission rate in ICDDR,B was between 800-1000 cases per day. Following discussions with the authorities, MSF is now setting up a diarrhoea centre in the southeast area of the capital in order to provide a more decentralised service and reach more people. It will start with 100 beds and increase to 200 beds if needed. The last time ICDDR,B faced so many cases was in 2004 when up to 900 patients per day were treated. However, the present situation could be worse: the city’s population has grown over the years and it is densely populated (about 15 million inhabitants). Although awareness is higher with regards to prevention, more cases are to be expected, particularly with the water receding. MSF is planning to have its centre up and running next week and may open a second in another area of the city. MSF also carried out an assessment in Sirajganj and Kurigram, in the North of Bangladesh, which were also affected by the floods, but the team found that an intervention was not required, as the government and other agencies were already intervening in that area. MSF has been in Bangladesh since 1985 (1992). At present it is working particularly in the Teknaf region to support Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.