The danger of epidemics grew Thursday in flood-stricken Bangladesh, aggravated by a reported critical shortage of medicines, water-purifying pills and a chemical treatment for diarrhea, which has killed at least 157 people in a surging outbreak.
The Health Ministry said it recorded six more deaths from diarrhea caused by the consumption of water and food supplies polluted in the country's worst floods, pushing the government's toll for the disease to 89.However, reports from health officials around the nation of 110 million said the death toll from diarrhea was at least 157.
The ministry said 15,793 new cases of the illness were reported since late Wednesday, driving the total number to more than 165,000. Major newspapers put the figure in the hundreds of thousands, but widescale communications disruptions have prevented the collection of accurate statistics.
A ministry official conceded the incidence of cases was rising dramatically.
The government reported the death toll at almost 450, although newspapers said there were more than twice the number.
Diplomats and foreign and national aid program officials said Bangladesh is facing a "critical shortage" of oral rehydration solution, which is used to treat diarrhea by replacing nutrients lost by the body.
They said most of the facilities that produce rehydration solution - a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, potassium, sugar and salt added to water - have been badly hit by flooding and production has been severely curtailed.
Salman Rahman, head of Beximco Inc., one of the country's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, said there were also serious shortages of water purifying tablets and antibiotics because many production facilities were flooded and those that were spared cannot obtain raw materials or distribute their stocks because of the widespread damage to road and railway networks.
The government is seeking 1 million packets of the oral rehydration solution and 10 million water purification pills from foreign donors. Rahman and other experts said that quantity would be insufficient.