Salty water causes serious health hazard to women
Sidr, Aila Victim
Fatema Khatun, a 17-year-old expectant mother, from Joymonigola village near the port of Mongla in Southern Bangladesh is suffering from various kinds of diseases due to lack of fresh water raising serious concern over the health of women in the area.
Any-one can tell from her eyes that she is suffering from anaemia with rashes all over her body. People contract such skin diseases if they use salty water.
Anaemia is the scarcity of hemoglobin in the blood and the major health consequences include poor pregnancy outcome, impaired physical and cognitive development and increased risk of morbidity in children and reduced work productivity in adults.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), anaemia contributes to 20 per cent of all maternal deaths.
Different research report shows that maternal and child mortality rates are rising due to pre-eclampsia.
Not only women and girls but also children are suffering from water-borne and skin diseases.
"I feel dry and itchy rash in few parts of my body. Sometimes I feel like my whole body is getting burned that make me more thirsty," said Fatema, who is hardly aware of the basic education and health services for safe pregnancy and childbirth.
Fatema, unclean and uncombed, said she can bathe once in a week with only a half bucket of water as her skin disease aggravated for her pregnancy.
"My family buys 15 litres of fresh drinking water for Tk30 every day. We have to go three miles away by Nashimon, an improvised transport, to buy water," she said.
Six-month pregnant Fatema whose husband Gafur Molla is a fisherman said the life for them was getting harder.
Few ponds are dug out on land a bit higher than sea level so that salty water cannot flood it during the monsoon season and rainwater can be preserved.
These ponds are no more a good source for anything. They are now used for crab and prawn farming.
Joymonigola is a village that is under threat of imminent inundation due to sea level rise caused by climate change.
South-Western coastal people always struggle against natural disasters every year. Lives and livelihoods of the people in this region are at high risk of super cyclones such as Sidr and Aila.
After every cyclone sea water floods the whole region turning the fresh water salty posing serious health hazard to people of the different parts of the areas.
During the dry season, 50 million people in three districts of 16 sub-districts suffer from acute water crisis at the Sharonkhola front of the Sundarbans in the west of Shyamnagar.
Especially Bagerhat, Sharankhola, Mongla, Chitalmari, Kaira, Dacope, Paikgacha of Khulna have to face water crisis.
Inhabitants of Shyamnagar of Shatkhira and Dumuria, Kaira and Batiaghata of Khulna, Ashasuni, Kaliganj, Debhata, Tala, Bagerhat Sadar, Rampal and Morelganj are still deprived of pure drinking water.
Selina Begum, 39, another neighbour of the same village, whose younger daughter died last year while giving birth to a baby, said they had failed to ensure her menstrual hygiene due to lack of water.
"Even we preserve small amounts of fresh water for domestic animals. So fresh water for menstrual hygiene is beyond our imagination, Selina, a mother of four children and also a fry collector in the Shela river, said while talking to this correspondent.
Not only Fatema, Gonai Bibi is also in her advanced level of pregnancy. She said she had had miscarriages twice. She is also suffering from anaemia.
"Every bit of water is very precious to us because we pay for it. We use the water only to meet the most essential demands. I cannot afford to use fresh water to take my bath. I use the salty water from my ponds and get affected from it," she said.
Researchers say saline water has a negative impact on the health of mothers and children also, including more cases of (pre)eclampsia and gestational hypertension in pregnant women, and a higher rate of infant mortality in this area.
Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy are among the leading causes of maternal and perinatal mortality in low-income countries like Bangladesh.
According to the report of Deutsche Welle (DW), nearly 200,000 women and adolescent girls in the coastal area close to the Sundarbans, including Ashashuni and Shyamnagar upazilas in Shatkhira, Mongla and Sharankhola of Bagerhat, Dakop and Paikgacha of Khulna, are at risk.
Dr Afroza, a gynecologist of BIRDAM, said good hygiene during pregnancy will prevent infections, keep a mother comfortable and make her feel more refreshed.