Water-borne disease caused by Cyclone Aila, a major threat for West Bengal: UNICEF

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Kolkata, July 1 (ANI): UNICEF has warned that water-borne diseases continue to be a major threat to the people affected by "Cyclone Aila" that hit West Bengal last month.

It said "Cyclone Aila" was accompanied by heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides, and added that with large areas of the state still submerged, the availability of clean drinking water remains a serious challenge.

To date, 138 people have died and an estimated 6.8 million people have been affected by the cyclone in the state. Twenty-eight diarrhoeal deaths have been registered and over 85,000 cases of diarrhoea have been reported.

About thirty percent of health sub-centres are non-functional in the affected areas. However, primary and community health centres are functional.

While 18 out of the 19 districts in West Bengal have been affected, the situation continues to be particularly precarious in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts of the Sunderbans area. Approximately 945,000 houses have been damaged, the majority of them in Sunderbans.

West Bengal state is still under threat of regular floods. However, with monsoons delayed, the threat of flooding has somewhat receded.

At present, 375 government medical teams are operational in the field. Seven thousand tube-wells have been disinfected and water purification mobile units are providing 15,000 litres of safe drinking water pouches in affected areas every day.

The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) department has restored water supply and disinfected most of the affected hand pumps in North 24 Parganas district. The department has distributed more than 12 million Halazone tablets, 100,000 Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) sachets and 2,000 sacks (25 kg each) of bleaching powder.

Five Panchayats and the Rural Development Department have deployed NGOs to provide toilets in the schools, health and relief centres.

To control the potential large scale outbreak of diarroheal diseases in the most affected areas UNICEF, along with National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Institute of Cholera Disease and Enteric Diseases (NICED), is partnering with Calcutta Medical College and Nilratan Sarkar (NRS) Medical College, Kolkata. Junior doctors are being mobilised for demonstration of protocol guidelines on Acute Diarrhoeal Diseases (ADD) control and disinfection in health facilities.

Chemicals for water testing and for disinfecting tube wells have been provided to the PHED for the affected districts. To strengthen inundated tube well disinfection, over 100 PHED staff members have been trained in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts.

So far, UNICEF has delivered 50 metric tonnes (MT) of bleaching powder and 50,000 Halazone tablets to the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), one million additional Halazone tablets to the Rama Krishna Mission and six NGO partners.

An additional 10,000 tarpaulins, 15 MT of bleaching powder and 25,000 water jerry cans to the affected blocks. have been delivered by UNICEF It is also providing ten motor boats and life jackets to local NGO partners, authorities and volunteers.

UNICEF is continuing its key interventions among the most vulnerable populations in the most affected blocks of Sandeshkali 1, Sandeshkali 2, Hingalgunj Block (North 24 Parganas), Gosaba and Patharpratima Block (South 24 Parganas). The focus is on essential life-saving interventions for approximately 50,000 families.

Working with the government, district and block officials UNICEF is initiating micro-planning for a measles vaccination campaign and Vitamin A for the affected population.

On the nutrition education front, UNICEF has partnered with six local NGO partners for the protection and promotion of breast-feeding, complementary feeding and monitoring the nutritional status of young children.

It's efforts to advocate for the reopening of schools as early as possible have been appreciated by the government directorates, Sarva Shiksha Mission (SSM) and Shishu Shiksha Kendra (SSK) Mission. In some areas, the education system completely collapsed as a result of flooding in the wake of cyclone.

However the systems are now showing signs of revival. UNICEF will supply 700 "school-in-a-box" kits for approximately 56,000 of the most affected children in the focus districts. (ANI)

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