The leading cause of health problems associated with environmental disasters in Bangladesh is water. The relationship between health and disaster is a well-discussed issue. However, health outcomes due to water use during and after environmental disasters are a context specific experience influenced by socio-political and economic factors. Although, the concept of social determinants of health are acknowledged, people's perception of relations between health and natural disaster are not documented yet, also being a function of complex socio-cultural processes. In the absence of such knowledge, this paper aims to examine some of the cultural dimensions of natural disasters and their impacts on health. Three disaster prone rural areas specifically relating to flood, drought, and cyclones in the country were chosen for data collection. It is suggested that health impacts on disasters and disaster impacts on health vary between rich and poor, male and female, dependent on the nature of the disaster event. Participants related disaster information with water supply, infrastructure and with illness. The study also shows the various health impacts of disasters on coping mechanisms. For example, people cope with disaster impacts through migration, changes in occupation, low consumption of food, taking loans, surviving on relief, and these mediate health risks. Borrowing food from relatives, neighbours, or shop-keepers is another strategy for disaster victims. The study includes some significant documentation of existing indigenous knowledge and views on this topic.
Asian Journal of Water, Environment and Pollution (2010) 7 (1)