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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

IDA to provide $40m to fight arsenic

Bangladesh will receive 40 million US dollars from International Development Agency (IDA), a World Bank Group member, for arsenic mitigation under a public health project to be undertaken from next year.

The Appraisal date of the Arsenic Public Health Project (APHP), which will cost 45 million dollars, has been fixed on March 25 next year when the Bank is due to approve the project. The fund comes in the form of lending, IDA officials said.

The objective of the APHP is to assist Bangladesh in reducing the incidence and prevalence of diseases caused by arsenic contamination of drinking water and strengthen national capacity to address public health aspects of arsenic in the long term, including the capacity for surveillance, monitoring and evaluation.

The IDA sources said the project would seek to prevent new cases of arsenicosis and treat those already affected. The strategies included behaviour change communication to educate the general people about arsenic contamination of drinking water, its health effects, means to avoid exposure to the disease and the facts about realistic treatment options.

The project also aims at enhancing health sector capacity for the surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of arsenic-related diseases along with counselling of patients, promotion of research on prevalence, incidence and treatment to enable sound public health planning and intervention, development of patient management tools.

The IDA officials said the strategies would be developed into four project components while the project would be managed as an integral part of the Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP), and will complement arsenic mitigation activities underway within the IDA-financed Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP).

The project, however, will not include water testing or provision of drinking water alternatives, as these activities are being overseen by Ministry of Local Government and covered under BAMWSP and numerous local NGO programmes.

Bangladesh is said to be facing what has been described as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history" because more than 25 million people are estimated to be drinking water that contains hazardous levels of arsenic.

"Without intervention, approximately 250,000 individuals may eventually develop cancer from the exposure and many more may develop diabetes, neurological problems, debilitating skin lesions, and other health conditions," an IDA document said. (BSS)

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