With dengue capturing the national attention, floods have been relegated to the back burner. A phenomenon blighting mostly the capital city -although lately its outbreak is reported from all 64 districts, dengue has undoutedly been giving a nightmarish time to all concerned. Hospitals are struggling to deal with the record number of patients seeking admission. This should not, however, be a reason for turning a blind eye to the rampaging floods that have already put at risk lives of 7.6 million people, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC).
The Google prediction is direr. The floods may turn worse. All signs are indicative that the build-up points to an ominous prospect. In the country's north and north-eastern parts, hundreds of thousands people have been displaced, marooned or stranded and 600,000 houses damaged. Compared to the number of affected people, the death toll looks limited but that figure is not negligible either -about 120 by this time. An aggravating turn of the flood situation looms large.
It was reported that floods were receding from many parts but now that the river Brahmaputra is in spate, it is feared that the floods will have their second round of visitation. Even if floods did not affect the affected areas afresh, the humanitarian crisis could not be averted. Water-borne diseases like pneumonia and skin problem have already broken out among flood victims who have been forced to live in unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in makeshift shelters. Access to safe drinking water is impossible for them unless arrangement for its availability is made on a priority basis.
Next come foods. People who can manage three square meals a day in normal situation become vulnerable in time of calamities like this. Floods have already destroyed one of the two annual main crops -paddy this is -farmers in the affected areas are used to grow. But families do not live on food grains alone, they produce supplementary crops such as vegetables, develop fisheries or raise ducks and chicken or have mulching cows or goats to supply them with eggs, flesh and milk. Those are the sources of protein and nutrition for families in villages. In time of floods, they lose most such supplementary sources and become increasingly vulnerable to diseases.
In a situation like this, the poor in particular with no savings for the future find it difficult to survive without relief materials. It is an ugly truth confronting the nation that the spirit of charity in general is on the ebb. Dengue outbreaks in the capital and other urban localities seem to have made the matter worse. The youths who were the ones to take lead in responding to the needs of the flood-affected people have become rarer indeed. In the past, groups of young men of urban localities appealed in procession to their neighbours for donation of money or unused clothes for distribution among the affected people.
There was even a kind of competition among youth wings of different political parties to raise money or foods for flood victims. Some of them might have accomplished self-promotion through such activities but then there were some who genuinely felt that it was their life's mission to save the humanity in distress. It was not long ago that bands of youths overlooked risks in order to distribute relief goods and in the process one or the other among them embraced death.
If the floods take turn, as predicted, for the worst, the government agencies will not prove enough for the purpose. Volunteers who have no ulterior motive but whose hearts cry for the humanity in distress are in demand. The spirit of fellow-feeling and service to the humanity must be revived if the country wants to face the increasing challenges posed by the climate change.