Dirty water, unclean ways pose health risk at camps

Diarrhoea, vomiting, food poisoning serious threats

Stagnant water around flood relief camps close to the banks of Yamuna is posing a serious threat of water-borne diseases.

Medical officers and volunteers at the camp, however, say people are themselves responsible for their condition as they have largely ignored health and hygiene warnings.
“This new temporary life at the camps has suddenly called for discipline from these people. They do not understand what problems carelessness can bring,” said Sheikh Khan,  a civil defence warden.

The lack of proper bathing facilities has resulted in many children preferring to swim and bathe in stagnant waters in the low-lying flooded areas. “Bathing in this water can cause skin problems and other diseases arising from contaminated water. It is not possible to keep an eye on every child jumping into the water. Parents will have to heed our advice,” said Dr Zubair Ahmed, the medical officer stationed there.

But the bigger menace, which also threatens other displaced people, has been the contamination of drinking water by residents at the camp. Despite strict instructions against it, people have been bathing and cleaning clothes directly from the drinking water brought by Delhi Jal Board tankers. “Drinking water is getting contaminated because of these activities,” said Ahmed.

He said the medical team deployed at the camps has been receiving many complaints of diarrhoea, food poisoning, vomiting, fever and skin diseases, and attributed the problems to unhygienic water.

“We are also cautious about malaria,” he said.The whole stretch of camps at Yamuna Khadar near Mayur Vihar Phase-I gets around 20 water tankers every day with a capacity of 2,000 litres each.

Since there are around 2,500 people – both registered with the camps and unregistered – on the stretch, the per capita share of water comes to 15-16 litres a day. A lot of this goes waste due to running taps and unplugged tanker pipes.

Meanwhile, with sweltering heat replacing rains, a team is on standby to take charge in case malaria strikes.

Apart from a medical van, a CATS ambulance has been stationed at every stretch. Anyone with a complaint of fever and water-borne illness is being referred to Delhi government hospitals.

The overall hygiene is dismal. While footpaths outside the tents are cleaned every morning, awareness among people for cleanliness has been lacking, leading to unhygienic conditions inside the tents.

The state government had given directions for spreading awareness, and pamphlets on health precautions have been distributed.

But there is a glaring disconnect between officials and the affected people. Most officials are found spending much time just sitting and chatting among themselves at a centre, as people try to adjust to the new environment on their own way.

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