Bangladesh floods: Number of diarrhoea cases increases in Dhaka, MSF prepares intervention

Bangladesh's capital Dhaka has been heavily affected by the floods of the last few weeks, low areas of the city have been inundated; the general hygiene situation has deteriorated and access to drinking water has become 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.

The city hosts the International Centre for Diarrhoea Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), an internationally renowned centre for the treatment of diarrhoea and cholera. The centre has asked for support to provide assistance to all people in need, since the high levels of water make movements in the city more difficult.

At this time of the year the ICDDR,B would normally admit about 200 severe diarrhoea case a day while on Friday 10th August they were already up to 1,000 and 30% of them have been confirmed to be cholera cases. Last week the daily admission in ICDDR,B was between 800-1000 cases.

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 will increase to 200 beds if needed.

The last time ICDDR,B faced so many cases was in 2004 with a maximum of 900 patients per day, however the present situation might be worse: the city's population has grown over the years and the city is densely populated (about 15 million inhabitants). Although awareness is higher with regards to prevention, more cases are to be expected, particularly with water receding.

MSF is planning to have its centre up and running next week and might be opening another one in another area of the city quite soon. MSF also carried out an assessment in Sirajganj and Kurigram, in the North of Bangladesh, which were affected by the floods but the team found that an MSF medical emergency intervention was not required, as the Government and other agencies are 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.