Swine flu outbreak kills 76 in India

In this file photo, An Indian vendor sells face masks for swine flu prevention outside a railway station in Secunderabad. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2019
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Swine flu outbreak kills 76 in India

  • Colder weather has worsened the seasonal outbreak of the H1N1 virus

NEW DELHI: A swine flu outbreak in one of India's biggest tourist hubs, Rajasthan state in the west of the country, has killed 76 people this year, government officials said on Wednesday.
Colder weather has worsened the seasonal outbreak of the H1N1 virus, with Rajasthan recording more than a third of all swine flu deaths in India, officials said.
Rajasthan's cities, with their imposing fortresses and palaces, attract many overseas visitors, although officials said there no reports of any of them catching the virus.
More than 8,700 people in Rajasthan have been screened for H1N1 this year, and 1,976 had tested positive by Tuesday, a state health department spokesman told Reuters.
The worst affected area was Jodhpur district, which recorded 23 of the 76 deaths in the state so far this month.
Rajasthan reported 705 cases of swine flu and 53 deaths in the month of January last year.
A team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)arrived in Jodhpur on Tuesday and will spend two days to investigate the outbreak, the spokesman said.
Nationwide, 4,571 cases of H1N1 virus and 169 deaths were reported by Jan. 27, according to NCDC data.
Doctors said that the severity of the current outbreak in Rajasthan was partly due to colder than normal weather.
"It's a seasonal disease and the weather is conducive to viral multiplication," said Raman Sharma, senior professor at SMS Medical College in Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital city.


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 12 sec ago
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”