Rohingya refugees face chickenpox outbreak in Bangladesh

Updated 24 February 2019

Rohingya refugees face chickenpox outbreak in Bangladesh

  • Around 20,000 people have been affected so far this year 
  • UNICEF has 1,000 volunteers raising awareness about disease  

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar are facing a fresh problem in Bangladesh, where they now live in congested and squalid camps.

There has been an outbreak of chickenpox among the refugees, with around 20,000 people affected this year so far.

"My 2-year-old daughter Sharifa has been suffering from a fever in the last three days,” Arifa Begum, 32, told Arab News while waiting in line at a medical center in Kutupalang camp. “Only this morning I noticed a few rashes on her body and rushed to the medical center."

Ambia Bibi, 26, was with her 6-year-old boy Ajim Uddin and was also waiting to see a doctor. 

"I took medicines three days back for my son Ajim. But due to chickenpox he had severe vomiting and today I came here for follow up treatment,” she told Arab News.

Hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya Muslim minority arrived in Bangladesh following the crackdown, which triggered the exodus and strained resources in the impoverished country.

“It (chickenpox) is a highly contagious disease and this year the number of patients are much higher than the previous year,” Dr. Shahidul Islam told Arab News.

The medic, who works at the medical center in Kutupalang camp, said the outbreak among Rohingya children was almost like an “epidemic” although authorities have not officially declared it to be one.

His medical center treated hundreds of children for chickenpox last month, with hundreds more diagnosed this month. 

According to UNHCR, around half a million Rohingya children live in congested camps, making them more vulnerable to the disease. 

UNICEF is providing medical support through its 19 health centers and, of these, three are operating seven days a week.

“Since the children of the refugee camps live in such congested condition we can’t take enough measures to check the spread of chickenpox," UNICEF spokeswoman Nazzina Mohsin told Arab News. “To spread awareness information we have engaged around 1,000 of our volunteers.”

Surgeon Abdul Matin said around 20,000 people had been affected by chickenpox since the start of the year, but added that the situation was in hand.

“Most of the affected were children,” he told Arab News. “Since Dec. 22 we have engaged our people to spread leaflets containing awareness information regarding chickenpox. It's not a deadly disease and the situation is very much within control.”

Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019

Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.