Kerala floods: Healthcare workers doing their best against all odds

Kerala government has asked all the medical officers in each government hospitals in flood affected districts to provide medical services to people considering the special situation arising out of flood

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The state is ‘facing the worst floods in 100 years,’ Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Twitter, adding that at least 324 lives have been lost so far since the monsoon season started in June.

220,000 people have been left homeless and thousands still trapped in the southern state after unusually heavy rain.

Casualty numbers are expected to increase further, with thousands more people still stranded. Many have died from being buried in hundreds of landslides set off by the flooding.

While the rescue and relief operations have given a new lease of life to people in the state, preparations for post flood disease management have started in full swing in the state. It is now the time that many waterborne diseases will start spreading in the state.

Authorities warned of more torrential rain and strong winds over the weekend, as hundreds of troops and local fishermen staged desperate rescue attempts in helicopters and boats across Kerala.

Government has asked all the medical officers in each government hospitals in flood affected districts to provide medical services to people considering the special situation arising out of flood.

Rescue workers and members of the armed forces have been deployed across the state with fleets of ships and aircraft brought in to save the thousands of people still stranded, many sheltering on their roofs signalling to helicopters for help.

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The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed 58 teams and has managed to save over 7,000 people. On the other hand, the weather seems to be worsening again as red alert has been issued in 11 of the 14 districts.

Mrunmai Joshi, (IAS) Additional Director of Kerala Tourism, said, “During this crisis time we all are trying our best to provide efficient service. Post-floods when health issues have started coming up, managing public infrastructure is our top priority. We will ensure safe drinking water, cleaning of drinking water sources, distribution of chlorine tablets, testing of blood, stool and rectal swab of people with symptoms of water borne diseases.”

“Our staff is working despite all the obstacles before them. When the infrastructure and transportation facilities have collapsed it is challenging task for government staff to work. We have set up different healthcare camps,” she added.

There is fear of outbreaks of epidemics like dengue, chikungunya, malaria, diarrhoea, typhoid, leptospirosis, cholera, jaundice and viral fever in the state post flood. The number of leptospirosis cases reported since 1 June stands at 292. Fear is being expressed that all such cases will increase more now.

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Infectious organisms, including intestinal bacteria such as E coli, salmonella, and shigella, hepatitis A virus and agents of typhoid, paratyphoid and tetanus, are often found in floodwater. Experts are saying that it is difficult to predict spread of infectious diseases that will be reported post-flood.

News reports point out that most of the wells in the water lodged areas are contaminated. Many people are not getting access to safe drinking water.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), since the beginning of June, more than 321cm of rain has fallen on the hilly central district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state.