Preventing onslaught of diarrhea    

Published: April 28, 2019 22:10:40 | Updated: April 30, 2019 22:19:53

With summer raging in full menacing force, water-borne diseases and other maladies have already staged a comeback in the country this year as well. In the past, the media would remain focused on the large cities like Dhaka and Chittagong which used to be ravaged by various summertime diseases --- diarrhoea in particular. Not that the other parts of the country were spared the scourge. But in the context of the disease being an age-old big-city phenomenon, it would be viewed as a routine scenario. In the last few years, district and upazilla towns, alongside the mega-cities, have been found being equally affected by the onslaught of the outbreak. And they have grabbed wide media focus. News reports this year already began publishing stories about the plight of district and upazilla-level hospitals and health complexes dealing with diarrhoea. The main problem in these facilities is the continually increasing disproportionate ratio between doctors and patients. In cases, acute dearth of paramedics also aggravates the overall situation.

Although the incidence of deaths of adults from diarrhoeal complications has dropped remarkably, the rate of child deaths still remains at a disconcerting stage. The remedy of oral rehydration salts, commonly known as 'orsaline', has long penetrated the country's rural areas; yet many remote and outlying villages are still not fully aware of the curative measure. With many villages remaining without electricity, the aggressive television campaigns over three decades have apparently eluded them. Moreover, the imperative of drinking and using pure water has not been adequately disseminated among the unlettered villagers. It is really painful to learn that ignorant people in rural areas still remain dependent on quacks and faith healers for remedies to diarrhoea. It only complicates the situation.

Thanks to the oral rehydration solution invented by ICDDR, B in the late 1960s in Bangladesh, the cholera and diarrhoeal disease patients were virtually offered a new lease of life. It was two young US scientists and a couple of Dhaka researchers who made the breakthrough invention. Since that time the SEATO Cholera Research Centre, now International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B) has earned the sobriquet of the pioneer in the killer disease's research. By the 1990s, the oral rehydration salts (Orsaline) as a cure for diarrhoeal diseases became a household name in the country. Had it not been for this nearly inexpensive mixture of molasses and salt, now commercially available in small packets, Bangladesh might have still remained plagued with diarrhoea.

Due to its being a water-borne disease and one also caused by stale food, awareness plays a critical role in preventing diarrhoea's widespread outbreak. In capital Dhaka, a city beset with paucity of clean water during summer, as well as in monsoon flooding, the threat of impure water remains ever-looming. The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority performs its task by offering pompous assurances of supplying pure water in the near future. But nothing changes; things remain dug-in. Meanwhile, public awareness of the causes of water-borne diseases remains veritably non-existent. Roadside eateries selling stale foods, vendors luring thirsty customers to have a glass of dust-laden lemon 'sherbat' etc continue to remain present without respite. In such a situation, only stringent monitoring and a law enforcement mechanism can bring about a positive change. Besides, it is also personal hygiene coupled with the materialisation of the pledges of supplying pure drinking water which can keep the dread of diarrhoea at bay. 


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