Health hazards

Hundreds of people were killed and injured by massive rain, landslides and floods in various parts of the country, especially in the Tarai. The catastrophe has caused huge loss of human lives, animals and other properties and there is immediate need for response and relief. Medical assistance is also a major concern in the affected areas.

Floods are usually associated with increase in transmission of water and vector borne diseases. Flood water is not just a trouble but also contains potentially dangerous materials like faecal matter from overflowing sewage, agricultural surplus and chemicals from industries. Splashing in flood waters can also cause infection or result in a variety of injuries.

In developing countries like Nepal, acute sanitation problems and various water borne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and typhoid threaten the disaster affected poor and vulnerable people, especially due to the lack of safe drinking water, medicines and hygienic foods.

Besides the management of shelters, victims also need to have access to safe drinking water and food. Flooding ruins clean water sources with pollutants and destroys sanitary toilets. There is direct and indirect contact with the contaminants through food intake, vectors, unclean hands and dirty utensils resulting in waterborne illnesses and life threatening infections. There is an increased risk of infection through direct contact with polluted waters, such as wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and ear, nose and throat infections. However, these diseases are not epidemic and can be cured.

Flooding may also lead to many vector borne diseases through the expansion in the number and range of vector habitats. Stagnant water caused by heavy rainfall and flooding act as breeding sites for mosquitoes and insects enhancing the exposure of affected people to dengue, malaria, flu and other infections. Although the public attention is normally paid to the risk of physical property destruction caused by floods, it is strongly recommended that each of us practice some basic precautions to prevent possible diseases and injuries during and after floods to maintain good health. Repairing homes, buildings, properties and proper management of health hazard in flooded area are some tasks both physically and emotionally. Proper management of potential health risks and hazards of devastating flooding are essential.