DECEMBER 24 – Government response shows ignorance that climate-related disasters are multipliers of risks to public health and the economy during a pandemic
We are ready for another gargantuan test as a nation. The severe flooding that hit Selangor and Pahang last week is potentially a precursor to a nationwide flood that will affect many other cities. This is what we can predict from a frightening alert triggered by the National Security Council yesterday to mobilize all flood response mechanisms across the country.
Even though, with sincere prayers and wishes, no further flooding will occur, the current situation in Shah Alam, Bentong, Mentakab could have far reaching consequences beyond rescue, evacuation, l accommodation, resettlement and recovery. Let’s not forget that the pandemic still rages with Delta and Omicron on our shores.
As many as 70 countries around the world have been affected by catastrophic floods that have displaced entire communities since the onset of the pandemic – almost all cases record havoc far beyond the flood itself. The multi-hazardous nature of this disaster and its immediate cascading impacts are evident, but its depth and breadth when compounded by the economic hardships of covid are not yet fully understood.
A flood is certainly a threat multiplier for the transmission of the virus, as it is unrealistic to coerce and observe a physical distance during evacuation, rescue and sheltering. Hygiene levels will inevitably be compromised, especially with the supply of treated water and electricity being cut off for days on end.
For those stranded in high-density living quarters, sharing and distributing supplies forces them to congregate in less than ideal settings. Clean water, non-perishable foods, diapers, candles and sanitary napkins are naturally the priority of flood victims over face masks and hand sanitizers. Another scary item and in great demand were pain relievers; in which I personally distributed on request no less than 100 blisters in an hour, at the epicenter of the floods in Taman Sri Muda.
Reports of rat colonies by the hundreds suddenly seeking higher ground, challenging even human spaces during the most stressful and urgent times when the water has started to rise can be psychologically healing for those who have lived through it. first hand. This is even before considering the health risks of leptospirosis and other diseases transmitted by rodents if they were not evacuated.
Contaminated water on open wounds, food and water can also contribute to a post-flood public health crisis. Diseases carried by vectors, rodents and water during flooding are undoubtedly another potential multiplier of threats under current circumstances which are probably already spreading rapidly.
There is also no way to tell how widespread and widespread the Covid-19 virus is among the tens of thousands of flood victims, citizens and undocumented migrants. People involved in rescue and recovery missions are also very susceptible to no-fault transmission on their part; but those who are deployed for official duties as well as the volunteers who have stepped up to offer assistance may carry another wave of transmission beyond the flood-affected areas upon their return home.
We should not underestimate the potential consequences for public health of these floods. Almost all political parties, large numbers of NGOs and countless people have flocked to the worst affected areas with supplies, resources and their time to help with whatever is needed. Despite the slowness of the federal government’s response which has been partially offset by military intervention – albeit limited but much appreciated – much is underway – though far from perfect – as we speak of day six. at the time of writing.
But we need to be aware of and prepare for a potential outbreak of infectious and communicable diseases on top of another wave of pandemic attacks, against the catastrophic backdrop of a fall after the floods. Equally relevant is the strong likelihood that a large portion of flood victims will immediately be relegated from employer to employee, employee to underemployed or unemployed, working class to poverty. Questions which not only require an answer but require an affirmative answer are;
- Are we and how are we prepared for a new wave of flooding in the hardest hit areas?
- Are we and how are we prepared for a new Covid19 epidemic?
- Are we and how are we prepared for an outbreak of diarrheal disease (or worse) after a flood?
- Are we and how are we prepared for nationwide floods with similar impacts in several densely populated areas?
- What are the measures to ensure that Research, Testing, Traceability, Isolation and Assistance (FTTIS) is underway in the areas affected by the floods?
Regarding the issues that cross the minds of many flood victims, especially young people and new families at the start of their careers;
- Will I still need to do this and how will I pay off the remainder of the car loan on my now fully written off car?
- Will I still have a job to resume because my employer’s business has been devastated by the floods?
- Will the insurance company complete my request to replenish my business’s expired stock and damaged equipment?
- How do I get back on my feet if my business / employer was not insured against flooding?
The list of questions goes on and on. But there is a fundamental question that remains unanswered; what the government is doing and is going to do about it. Today, the federal government and its ministers are still busy holding flood relief launch ceremonies and handing out financial aid in front of large LED screens in hotels.
I urge the government to respond to these questions immediately and to break the deafening silence that is gravely affecting tens of thousands of flood victims, volunteers and aid workers.
The government must act now to prevent risk multipliers from turning this natural disaster into an irreversible public health disaster. The Prime Minister and his cabinet must also do everything in their power to not only provide immediate flood relief, but also short and medium term financial assistance through political interventions.
PH National Youth Leader
National Chief DAPSY
ADUN Pasir Pinji, Perak
* This is the personal opinion of the author or organization and does not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian courier.