After Cyclone Aila: Outsmarting the Floods
A journal by an MSF water and sanitation expert
July 10, 2009
Kathy Dedieu is working as a water and sanitation specialist in the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency project in Bangladesh following Cyclone Aila. The disaster contaminated many water sources, and ongoing flooding during high tides makes it difficult to clean and repair them. It’s Dedieu’s job to come up with alternative ways to get safe drinking water.
July 4: Looking for a dry spot
It is my third day here in Satkira District of Bangladesh. About six weeks ago, this place was inundated with water when Cyclone Aila hit and broke many levees in a region where people live at or below sea level. The result was much like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans: the water just poured in, and a lot of it hasn’t left, even weeks later. Some areas are flooded again during every high tide. Elsewhere, the water is just sitting.
When the ocean broke through the levees, it brought salt water to the area’s drinking water supply. People in this area of Bangladesh get their water from large rainwater-collecting man-made ponds that have a sand filter at the end for treatment, or from deep tube wells that have a hand pump on top. The man-made ponds are now filled with salty, undrinkable water which needs to be pumped out so that the pond can be filled with fresh water. The tube wells need to be repaired and improved, and disinfected with chlorine. In some places, the population has moved to the top of the levee for now, the only dry place during high tide. These people lost everything and need to start at square one.
MSF is helping in several ways right now, and yesterday I assisted in the distribution of non-food items. This is a kit we are giving to the survivors of the storm, and it includes some rope, some buckets and plastic sheeting so that the families can collect rain water to drink. Today, I was with the medical team at a mobile clinic and saw several families using the supplies MSF had given them. They stake the plastic sheeting out at a slight slope to collect the maximum amount of rain water, which collects in the buckets. Now that monsoon season has started, it rains heavily almost every day, so this is a good source of drinking water for them. The monsoon will also help fill the emptied man-made ponds with fresh water.
Read more at: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news