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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Arsenic hits 24m in Bangladesh:WB

The World Bank in its Country Assessment Strategy (CAS) has described the arsenic contamination of ground water in Bangladesh as one of the new primary challenges, affecting at least 24 million people in this South Asian Country, reports BSS.

"Emergence of new challenges in the health sector require proper attention and resources," the CAS report said. It laid emphasis on the concerned efforts of government, local communities, donors and private sector which will be absolutely necessary to mitigate the adverse health impacts of arsenic poisoning and to develop alternatives safe drinking water supplies.

It linked the environmental problems with poverty ranging from widespread resource depletion and ecological degradation to urban and industrial pollution as well as natural disasters in Bangladesh. Natural resource degradation affects the livelihood of nearly half the rural poor by reducing yields of agriculture, fisheries and timber as well as non-timber forestry products.

However, the report said, Pubic health impacts of pollution including dirty and arsenic-laced water, lack of sanitation and urban as well as indoor air pollution account for nearly 20 per cent of all illness and deaths in the country. Over the last 30 years since independence, Bangladesh suffered 25 per cent of all disaster related damages in South Asia and the country is also particularly vulnerable to projected limit of flooding, increased cyclones and the sea-level rise.

The government has already undertaken some successful steps with regard to air pollution in Dhaka, industrial standards, cyclone early warning system and the localised ecosystem management. However, the health indicators in Bangladesh saw a remarkable improvements in life expectancy, immunisation coverage and fertility rate during the 1990s, the CAS report said.

It said maintaining these gains is essential to further progress against tremendous remaining challenges like reducing the child malnutrition, lowering infant and maternal mortality and controlling the population growth, reducing the prevalence of endemic and infectious diseases and increasing access to safe water and sanitation.

The report described the potential HIV/AIDS epidemic as the second new challenge and suggested public awareness and outreach to high-risk groups to avert this killer disease. Bangladesh government has already initiated pre-emptive actions with the help of donors including International Development Agency (IDA) to check spread of HIV/AIDS.

Coalition for the Urban Poor (CUP), networking 47 NGOs in poverty alleviation in the capital, has said nearly 400,000 urban slum dwellers here are being benefited by the various health services rendered by 26 NGOs who are also providing safe water to these underprivileged people.

In doing so, a cup profile said, some NGOs have successfully mediated state institutions to ensure access of the poor to all basic health facilities like safe water. Most NGOs have been running health education programmes in the slums covering over 500,000 urban poor here, the CUP profile said, adding, at least 17 NGOs have been providing direct health services to these poor through 57 health centres in the city. ( BSS)

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