Morbidity higher in urban life


Atleast 88 per cent of the rural population are reported to be healthy, while only 34 per cent of the urban population residing in the non-slum households are keeping sound health. Only eighteen per cent of the slum dwellers are reportedly keeping good health.

The city fathers and government policy makers should take note that nearly two thirds of slum residents and half the non-slum residents suffer from occasional illness compared to only about 16 per cent in the rural areas, says a joint study done by BIDS and IRRI.

Fortunate are those who live in the countryside and breathe fresh air in healthier environment compared to the urban people who are literally staked by the silent killer-pollution.

The poor health conditions of urban residents are attributed to rapidly deteriorating air quality in Dhaka city, unhealthy high density of population.

Higher prevalence of fever and cough among the sample population cutting across socioeconomic lines and higher rate of morbidity suggest higher level of environmental pollution in urban areas than in rural ones, says a researcher.

Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies BIDS and The International Rice Research Institute IRRI jointly carried out the study throughout 1998 and came up with these findings recently. Three researchers, Mahbub Hossain, Rita Afsar and Manik Lal Bose use a 1991 household survey in Dhaka and opinion surveys conducted by BIDS for rural households in 1988 and 1995 as baseline date.

While carrying out the study in 1998, the researchers took the same four metropolitan areas - Lalbagh, Jurain, Purana Paltan and Mirpur ...... as samples. For each area 150 households were taken as samples, one third of which were again drawn from slums and squater areas.

A large majority of the sick population suffer from fever, cough, general weakness, gastro-enteritis, asthma, diabetes and blood pressure ....... all have direct links to a polluted environment.

The overall morbidity rate defined as the proportion of sick member of the families in the sample population is 50 per cent. Considering age composition, morbidity rate is highest for the 65 plus age group (83 per cent) followed by the 40 plus population 73 per cent and children and children under 5 (65 per cent). Rapid growth of urban population and concentration of 10 million people in the city puts strain on land use, natural resources and urban services jeopardising the urban environment and undermining sustainable development.

Another recent study also supplements such observation saying that poorer people who live in illegal and unprotected areas are more vulnerable to the risks of health hazards than the richer population.

It said, lack of vision in urban development and inefficient metropolitan management that favours the well-off neighbourhoods in the delivery of urban services without any effective system of cost recovery is important factors behind high morbidity.

Without effective means to control environment pollution and adoption of innovative approaches to combine ecological regeneration with community development particularly regarding water, sanitation, air pollution, energy systems and food, it is not possible to redress the problems effectively.

The city of Dhaka alone absorbs 40 per cent of the country's urban population.

In 1995, Dhaka with a population of 8.5 million was the 23rd largest city in the world. By 2015, Dhaka will be the fifth largest city after Tokoyo, Bombay, Lagos and Sao Paulo with a population of 19.5 million.

Source: The Independent, December 8,2000