Police fire rubber bullets at striking S. Africa farm workers

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Updated 10 January 2013

Police fire rubber bullets at striking S. Africa farm workers

DE DOORNS, South Africa: South African police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse striking farm workers in the western fruit belt yesterday amid fears that months of deadly wildcat action will flare-up again.
Police turned to the bullets and tearsmoke to break up the protests as around 3,500 people turned violent in De Doorns, a top grape-growing area outside Cape Town, an AFP correspondent reported.
The unrest flared up across the Western Cape province yesterday, weeks after farm strikes left two dead and vineyards destroyed.
“So far a total of 44 people have been arrested on charges of intimidation and public violence,” said police spokesman Andre Traut.
An officer had been injured, he said. An AFP correspondent saw the man, who was hit by a rock, with a cut on his forehead.
The industrial action follows violent work stoppages in the mining industry late last year which left over 50 people dead, including 34 shot dead by police in one day in scenes reminiscent of apartheid police brutality.
Workers on fruit farms have downed tools, demanding a wage hike from 69 rand ($8) to 150 rand ($17.50) a day.
The protesters had also occupied part of the country’s major N1 highway, forcing dozens of police officers and two armored vehicles to move down the road, pushing the protesters back from the town entrance.
Skirmishes broke out with protesters throwing rocks, moving away and regrouping.
A police helicopter circled the air as gun smoke clouded view and rubber bullet casings littered the ground.
Meanwhile Eyewitness News reported that potestors in Grabouw, around an hour’s drive away, threw rocks and looted shops.
In Wolseley 60 kilometers (37 miles) from De Doorns police also kept protesters from entering the town, but later removed the barriers as the numbers dwindled.
Some protesters carried signs ‘Agri SA julle is apartheid boere’, slamming the main commercial agriculture body as being farmers of apartheid, and ‘150.00’ to push for wage demands.
About 40 percent of laborers in the area went to work, said James Cornelius, the regional secretary of the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa), deploring the low striker turnout.
“There will be less people going to work tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.
Wage negotiations have been complicated because few farm workers are unionized, and talks between individual farms and employees collapsed.
Farmers worry the violence will damage production of especially table grapes and stone fruit, though the potential effect on the wine industry is still uncertain.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said earlier law dictates the basic wage may only be reviewed one year after it was put in place. The current level dates to March last year, meaning the next review can only be two months from now.
But Cornelius vowed stoppages would continue until farmers bow to their wage demands. Talks with farmers continued, he said.

“I think they don’t have a choice because we will strike until we get the 150,” he said, adding that organizers would evaluate their action on Sunday.
Two people died during last year’s unrest which started in De Doorns. Police fired rubber bullets at protesters, who torched vineyards, vehicles and liquor stores. Damage amounted to 150 million rand.
The province provides 55-60 percent of the country’s agricultural exports and employs nearly 200,000 permanent and seasonal workers.

Monsoon in Bangladesh adds to Rohingya refugees’ plight

Updated 25 June 2018

Monsoon in Bangladesh adds to Rohingya refugees’ plight

  • Bangladesh government has established 40 diarrheal training centers in the refugee camps to deal with the outbreak of diarrhea among the refugees.
  • Authorities in Bangladesh have taken urgent steps to face the emergencies: 169 medical centers equipped with doctors and medical staff are providing treatment to the Rohingyas.

DHAKA: As the monsoon starts showering in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, water-borne disease makes a fresh attack on the inhabitants of the congested bases.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) situation update report, last week 873 Rohingya patients were identified with Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) — nearly double the average number of AWD patients in recent weeks.

Aid agencies are feared to have more waterborne disease patients in the mid-monsoon.

“My son has suffered from diarrhea for the past two days,” said Morium Begum, a Rohingya refugee living in Balukhali camp, while waiting in the queue for the doctor at a health center. Her three-year-old boy, Ahmed Musa, looks very pale and ailing because of dehydration.

Another girl, Halima Khatun, 6, has suffered from high fever for the past four days.

“I visited the doctor with my daughter in this camp two days ago. They have prescribed Halima some medicines, but her condition has not improved,” said her mother, Khadiza Begum, while visiting an NGO-run health center at Kutupalang camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar.

Authorities in Bangladesh have taken urgent steps to face the emergencies: 169 medical centers equipped with doctors and medical staff are providing treatment to the Rohingyas.

“We are maintaining a very close coordination with all the government and NGO-run medical centers to address any emergency and humanitarian crisis,” says Dr. Abdul Mannan, Upazilla health officer of Ukhia, where most of the refugees now live in makeshift houses.

“We have noticed a significant rise in waterborne diseases during this month of monsoon, which include fever, diarrhea, respiratory problems for the children and older people, skin diseases, and jaundice,” added Mannan.

Describing the situation as “so far under control,” he said emergency response teams were always on “standby mode” with ambulances to carry the distressed Rohingyas to the nearby hospitals.

Anticipating the crisis, the Bangladesh authority has hired another team of 40 doctors to provide emergency treatment. They are also on “standby” and will be deployed on a needs basis in the crucial areas, said Cox’s Bazar district civil surgeon Abdus Salam.

“To deal with the diarrhea patients, we have established 40 diarrhea training centers within the camp areas. In addition, all our paramedic staff are provided with special training on the treatment of diarrhea patients.”

According to the latest situation report of Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), last week the refugees in Cox’s Bazar district experienced 95mm rain. During this period 116 shelters were damaged by rain and heavy wind.

Although authorities in Bangladesh have relocated 32,000 refugees to a safer place, the ISCG said, there are still around 215,000 refugees living on the hill slopes at great risk of landslides and monsoon floods. Of them, 42,000 are living at “highest risk.” By the end of this month, another 3,500 refugees will be shifted to safer zones, according to the ISCG report.