Bangladesh: eerie silence over an endless expanse of water – humedica team is working intensely – another flood wave is threatening the country

by Dr. Markus Hohlweck/SRI,  2009/06/08

An eerie silence is lying over the endless expanse of water through which Babul – carrying his child in his arms – and his wife are wading. Even two weeks after the devastating tropical storm, the consequences of cyclone “Aila” on the island Gabura in the South of Bangladesh, which had been surrounded by dykes up to now, can still be felt everywhere. And even more, they can be seen. In the meantime, another flood wave, as well as monsoon rains are threatening the country.

The areas where our relief teams work are only accessible by boat. Photo: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

In places where there had been lively activity and where about 18,000 people had lived, we can now only find a few cabins which have withstood the floods on the top of the dyke. Almost all cabins and accommodations have been destroyed.

People are moving slowly – as if in a trance – through an eerie, flooded landscape, trying to secure their daily living and to somehow reach the distribution point for rice and drinking water. We, too, perceive this state of shock. In this place alone, about 120 persons lost their lives.

On a fishing boat out team travels through the remains of the still almost entirely flooded island in the very south of Bangladesh, together with the employees of our local partner organisation KOINONIA and our medical equipment.

The dykes which had been intended to protect the people from floods have been destroyed by “Aila” almost completely and they can only be rebuilt in October, after the end of the four-months wet season. Up to this point, the island will probably remain mostly uninhabitable due to the daily flood tide, rice fields will be uncultivable because of permanent flooding with salt water and drinking water will be polluted by the high salt content.

This means that the people living on the island have been left completely destitute, without any means of making a living. In some places, also medical care and supplies are still not available even today, two weeks after the disaster.

Dr Markus Hohlweck, internist from Bonn, already supported our team in Bangladesh in 2007 after the cyclone “Sidr”. Photo: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

At the “villages” we have visited up to now – or rather at the odd buildings jutting out of the water in some places – we have encountered about 110 patients a day suffering from gastro-intestinal diseases partly accompanied by strong fever, severe fluid depletion and circulatory collapses caused by polluted drinking water. Furthermore we have treated a large number of patients with mostly severely infected wounds as well as pulmonary infections.

When treating these people, we can feel their gratefulness. But even if their faces are sometimes lit by a brief smile, their sadness caused by the trauma they are suffering from and by the loss of beloved family members is almost tangible.

Despite the daily strain, all team members recognise the fulfilling importance of the task which is awaiting us over the next few days: we need to provide practical support and give hope.

humedica is urgently calling for targeted donations for our relief mission in Bangladesh.

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference "Cyclone relief AILA"
      Account 47 47
      Bank code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Please also donate online in order to enable us to treat the survivors of this terrible storm. Thank you very much for any kind of support.

Kind regards and a heartfelt “thank you” on behalf of the entire team.

Yours sincerely, Dr Markus Hohlweck

Up to now, the humedica team has only been working on the southern island Garbura; further areas will be reached by our relief team in the days to come. Cartography:

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