Coastal women suffering in salt water!
Pinky Akter : Sharmin Akter’s house is in the Noor Nagar Union of Shyam Nagar Upazila. She was still in her twenties and her family gave her a child marriage but it didn’t last long. Sharmin said various problems including rashes, ringworm, excessive hair loss, and high blood pressure in her body had a negative impact on her married life. Upazila Health Complex showed no benefit in this problem.
There are many other women with tragic life stories like Sharmin Akhter. Talking to 50 women in this village, it is known that about 43 women are suffering from various skin diseases, high blood pressure, post-abortion complications, and uterine complications.
Various skin and uterine-related problems are having a negative impact on women’s married life.
Going to several Upazilas including Asashuni, Debhata, Shyamnagar, and Kalaroa of Satkhira district, it is seen that the women of these villages are mostly suffering from various menstrual problems, abnormal hair loss, various types of skin rash, itching, and other skin diseases. And these issues are affecting their family life. Most of the women in these villages are abandoned by their husbands, the divorce rate is on the rise, family conflicts and women’s lives are becoming precarious. And 80 percent of these women are between 16 and 38.
Fatema Khatun of Gabura, No. 9 Sora village of Shyam Nagar Union, is 38 years old and has three children. Fatema Khatun was suffering from itching and pain in her uterus for a long time. After treatment, the uterus was surgically removed at a local clinic.
And his disease has a negative impact on his married life. He said that due to Fatema’s illness, her husband left her. With three children, Fatima now lives a precarious life where poverty strikes.
Asma said that since childhood, she had various types of itching, burning in urination, and discharge problems, but as time went by, the problem increased and so her family married her at the age of 15.
The number of women in Upazila health complexes is more. Women of different ages, starting from puberty, bring with them different physical problems. Shyam Nagar Upazila Health Complex Medical Officer Disease Control Doctor Md. Milon Hossain said that the number of female patients here is high, women suffering from various skin diseases come with menstrual and uterine problems. Most of these women work in shrimp cages and catch fish for their livelihood and they also use old dirty clothes. during their periods which causes various diseases including uterine infection. He further informed us that in this regard, we advise patients to drink pure water, and use sanitary pads along with medicines.
Most of women use dirty old clothes during menstruation because they cannot afford sanitary pads.
However, since most families in coastal villages are poor, women cannot afford sanitary pads and are forced to wash the same cloth over and over again during menstruation. At the same time, most of the people on the coast are deprived of drinking clean water because the price of the jar of water sold in the market is very high, which is not possible every day.
According to the preliminary report of the National Hygiene Baseline Survey conducted by the Government of Bangladesh and ICDDRB in 2014, more than 80 percent of women and girls in Bangladesh use old clothes during their periods.
Project Director of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, National Cervical Mouth and Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Training Center Professor Dr. Ashrafunnesa said that 99% of cervical cancer is caused by infection with a type of virus called human papilloma. Women are more affected by cervical cancer due to many reasons including child marriage, childbearing under 18 years of age, multiple children, frequent childbearing, lack of personal hygiene, and malnutrition.
According to another study published in 2019, women and adolescents in the southern coastal region wash and reuse menstrual clothes in salt water. In this way, repeated washing of menstrual clothes in salt water and repeated use of such clothes puts women’s health at risk. And it is sometimes responsible for skin diseases and other sexual problems.
Talking to the locals and observing the information and documents of the Upazila Health Complex, it can be seen that the people of the coastal villages are suffering from various diseases including skin diseases due to the high intensity of salt water. Women are most affected. Talking to them, it is known that women use salt water more for various tasks starting from household work to bathing. Besides, many women on the coast are also involved in shrimp farming and fishing and because of this they are more victims, said Coast Foundation, an organization working on the coast.
Coastal women and girls are the worst victims of economic uncertainty due to climate change.
Md. Mizanur Rahman, the senior coordinator of Coast Foundation, said that the country’s agricultural and production systems are directly affected by the adverse effects of the weather. Residents of these areas are losing their agricultural assets as well as their houses. Children of these families are dropping out of school. A succession of disasters, rising salinity, and lack of clean water have led to an increase in malnutrition and disease among them.
Storm surges have increased in coastal areas. As a result, the livelihood of coastal residents is becoming uncertain. The poverty of the people of these areas is increasing due to the loss of wealth. Women and girls face health risks. Child marriage and maternal mortality are increasing.
Talking to most of the families in these areas, it is said that they marry off their daughters early to secure their future and prevent uterine problems to prevent diseases.
Economists say climate change, disasters, and increasing poverty along the coast due to salinity, as well as water-borne diseases, have added new burdens of economic uncertainty for families. And women are the most affected. The impact of climate change is negatively impacting the life cycles of most coastal women.
However, unless measures are taken to protect their health, SDG targets cannot be implemented because the women of the coast are contributing to various activities including agriculture and fish production, said Jahangir City University’s economics department professor Anu Mohammad.
One-third of all child marriages in Bangladesh takes place in coastal areas. In the coastal districts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Barguna, Pirojpur, Patuakhali, Jhalkathi, and Bhola, child marriage has increased more than before. According to the data of September 2021, more than 3 thousand child marriages took place in 10 Upazilas of Khulna in one and a half years of Corona.
Why is the rate of child marriage high in coastal areas?
Local environmental activists say that one natural disaster after another, the effects of salinity, and the lack of fresh water have negatively affected the lives of the people on the coast. The number of poor people is increasing. Land and houses are destroyed in the disaster. But poverty is not the only cause of child marriage, salt water is also associated with it.
You have to buy pure water with money. Families who cannot afford it are forced to drink salt water. As a result of living with salt water for a long time, various diseases are taking root in the body of girls and women. ! Due to the effects of salinity, when a girl marries early, her unborn child is also at risk of getting sick.
According to statistics, the total saline land area in the country was about 83.3 million hectares in 1973, which increased to 102 million hectares in 2000 and 105.6 million hectares in 2009. As a percentage, the matter has grown by around 26% in the last year. 35 years
A recent study conducted on the residents of Khulna’s Dakop Upazila found that women there were consuming 18 to 20 times more salt than the recommended amount by the World Health Organization.
On the other hand, a study by the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research conducted on 12,867 pregnant mothers in the country said that the number of abortions among coastal women due to salinity is much higher than that of women in the country’s coastal plains.
Human rights activists say the government should focus on the health and education of coastal women.
Financial security should be ensured by supporting poor families with climate change trust fund. Child marriage, malnutrition, and illiteracy should be eliminated. In addition, a medical campaign is necessary to protect their health, said Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA), Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan.