More than 50 days after Cyclone Aila tore through West Bengal causing deaths and devastation in a large swathe of the Sunderbans delta, the victims are still suffering from acute diarrhoea and skin diseases due to use of contaminated water.
Doctors fear that the number of people suffering from water borne diseases and children falling prey to measles and other communicable diseases would increase once stagnant sea water recedes from the villages of the Sunderbans.
"Once the villagers begin to return home from cyclone shelters, cases of diarrhoea would increase as more people would drink contaminated water from village tubewells, which went under water," Dr Anirban Sinha, Block Medical Health Officer of Sandeshkhali-I block in North 24-Parganas district said.
Decomposed carcasses of livestock and dead trees have compounded the problem, he says.
The Ghoshpara Block Primary Health Centre, which Dr Sinha supervises, has been receiving 8-10 acute diarrhoeal cases daily since the cyclone and consequent flooding by sea surge by Aila on May 25.
According to UNICEF, 28 people died of diarrhoea and more than 85,000 people were suffering of the disease in Aila-hit districts of North and South 24-Parganas districts.
"More than 10,000 people suffered from diarrhoea and 325 people were admitted in the hospitals of Sandeshkhali-I block alone," Dr Sinha said.
This PTI correspondent saw dozens of men, women, boys and girls being administered intravenous saline on hospital beds of Ghospara BPHC.
"I am having repeated loose motions, muscle cramp, dehydration and weakness," Manoranjan Sardar, said.
Beds were laid on the corridors of the hospital to cope with the large number of patients. A few days back, patients were allowed to lie on the floor of the hospital after all beds were occupied, officials said.
Official sources said acute diarrhoeal cases were reported from Sandeshkhali, Hingalganj blocks in North 24-Parganas and Gosaba, Basanti, Raidighi, Pathar Pratima, Namkhana, Kultali and Sagar Islands of South 24-Parganas district in the state.
Dr Sinha said they were distributing UNICEF and state government provided medicine and Oral Rehydration Salts to the people living in villages and cyclone shelters.
Local youths have been trained to disinfect water by halogen tablets and making ORS solution.
The disease spread as toilets were damaged and people were left to defecate in the open. Tube wells went under stagnant water, which was littered with carcasses of animals and decomposed trees.
Government agencies have disinfected more than 7000 tube wells, but many more remain to be done, officials said.
Most people still live in decrepit makeshift camps and survive on little food amidst much uncertainty. They have become malnourished as their sources of milk, eggs, fish and meat have perished in cyclone, Dr Sinha said.
Doctors said many people suffered from skin diseases after coming in contact with contaminated water. Their other concern surrounds the children who die from measles.
State government in collaboration with UNICEF have set up ORT centre and are injecting measles vaccine to the children.
More than 160,000 children were being injected measles vaccine and doses of vitamin-A after cyclone Aila in Gosaba, Basanti, Patharpratima, Kultali and Sandeshkhlai I and Hingalgunj blocks, officials said.
"The vitamin would boost their immunity and the vaccine would protect children from measles which spreads rapidly," Dr Kaninika Mitra, health specialist of UNICEF said at an immunisation centre at Boyarmari village.
Sandhya Das, who came to vaccinate her 4-year-old son, said children were suffering from fever, diarrhoea and skin problems in the relief camps.