- Residents in coastal areas of Chattogram avoid deep tube well water due to high salinity and presence of iron
- Most people drink Wasa water and 64% of them do so without any purification
- Coastal areas often get submerged by tidal water which contaminates Wasa water
- 898 diarrhoea patients were admitted to hospital in August
The water supplied by the Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) was the main source of drinking water for about 80% of diarrhoea patients in coastal Halishahar, EPZ and Patenga areas of Chattogram city, according to a government study.
The investigative study, conducted by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), found that even though there are deep tube wells in the outbreak areas, most residents use that water for other domestic purposes, but not for drinking due to high salinity and the presence of iron.
They mainly drink water supplied by Chattogram Wasa and around 64% of them do so without following any water purification process, the study found.
Following the investigation, the IEDCR team emphasised strengthening the government's health education programme on awareness to prevent and control diarrhoea outbreaks as well as making the water supply system safer in the city corporation area.
The IEDCR recently sent the study report, signed by its Director Tahmina Shirin, to the Chittagong district civil surgeon and the mayor of Chittagong City Corporation, requesting them to take necessary measures to deal with the situation.
Many parts of wards 38, 39 and 40 in the city are often submerged in tidal water, which can make the supply water totally unsafe if there is any defect in Wasa's water supply lines, the report mentioned.
Moreover, a lack of cleanliness has been observed in many parts of these wards, it stated.
A diarrhoea outbreak has occurred in these three wards of the port city and other adjoining areas since last July. On 19-25 August, a seven-member delegation of the IEDCR visited these areas and carried out the field investigation.
The report also mentioned that a total of 898 diarrhoea patients were admitted to the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) in August. Besides, 131 more diarrhoea patients were identified by the investigation team at the community level.
In its analysis of data relating to patients admitted to BITID and those identified at the community level, the team found that the outbreak started in different areas at the beginning of the second week of August and the maximum number of patients were affected around 15 August.
Some 190 patients were interviewed in detail during the course of the investigation. Of them, 66 people were residents of Ward 38, 64 were residents of Ward 39 and 22 of Ward 40.
The average age of the affected patients is around 22 years. As many as 48% of them are women while 52% are men. Around 27% of the victims are garment factory workers.
The report identified four causes of diarrheal outbreaks: a lack of safe drinking water, drinking water without purification, a lack of sanitation and contamination of water reservoirs (tanks and others) with microbes.
Chittagong District Civil Surgeon Dr Mohammed Elias Chowdhury told The Business Standard, "The report mentioned the investigation into the sudden increase in the number of diarrheal patients. It identified the source and the pathogen associated with the outbreak and recommended measures to contain and prevent it. Necessary measures are being taken in this regard."
However, AKM Fazlullah, managing director of Chattogram Wasa, claimed that Wasa water is safe.
"Wasa water can be drunk directly. We regularly test the water and maintain ideal levels of chlorine for water purification. However, if the water tank is not cleaned regularly, there may be germs and insects. The residents are responsible for that," he added.