The super cyclone Amphan has hit the state of West Bengal and has caused indescribable damage. Not just in the urban areas, but the rich ecological treasure trove of the Sundarbans has been devastated. The neighbouring states are already gearing up for a possible natural disaster as the cyclone shifts its direction.
While the loss of lives and property is a grim reminder of the force of such natural disasters, there are more insidious consequences to such calamities. We are talking about how such disasters take their toll on the health of residents of an affected region. With the COVID-19 pandemic already making things difficult, this storm will have far-reaching effects on health.
In order to be better prepared for the aftermath of this event, we need to take a look at what these health consequences can be.
Contamination of water
Studies conducted on the effects of cyclones indicate bacterial pollution of drinking water and turbidity. Added to this, mixing of faecal matter, debris and soil affect the waters in cyclone-hit areas causing water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.
Rise in communicable diseases
A typhoon causes a significant rise in the spread of communicable diseases such as infectious diarrhoea and bacillary dysentery to cause loss of lives. Water-clogging that takes place after the disaster also leads to an increase in vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and chikungunya among others. There is also a chance of an increase in cases of skin infections.
Effect on non-communicable diseases
Due to healthcare services and resources taking a hit during such events, treatment and management of chronic or non-communicable diseases gets disrupted and causes loss of lives. Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease require constant medical attention and services. The disorder brought into healthcare services by such cyclones makes it difficult for such patients to manage their conditions effectively.
Shortage of food
Destruction of supply-chains and logistics causes absence or sheer shortage of food and other vital resources. This can, in the long run, lead to malnutrition, causing stress on the health of infants and the elderly. There is a chance of child-mortality rates going up in the near future due to this.
Mental health effects
The loss of lives, property and livelihood inflicts short-term and long-term trauma to mental health. This has the potential to delay the return of normalcy and reduce the effects of rehabilitation measures. With the COVID-19 just adding to the stress, this is what the WHO describes as a severe “indirect impact”.
While thoughts and prayers are with the ones facing consequences, they are not enough to cope with the destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan- both state and central government efforts are in motion to help the people of the affected regions. On our end, we can help by contributing to numerous relief efforts and funds and by supporting the people of the affected regions as much as we can. Added to this, being equipped with correct information and spreading awareness also helps. So let us do all that we can, in helping the Amphan-affected people to stay strong and overcome this immense adversity.