‘We are scared’: Deadly dengue outbreak overwhelms Bangladesh

1 / 3
Bangladesh is in the midst of its worst-ever outbreak of the viral fever, with scores killed and at least 2,000 new hospital patients admitted every day over the past week. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)
2 / 3
A municipal worker sprays insecticide to kill mosquitos in Dhaka on August 5, 2019, as Bangladeshi authorities attempted to contain a dengue fever outbreak. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)
3 / 3
Bangladesh is in the midst of its worst-ever outbreak of the viral fever, with scores killed and at least 2,000 new hospital patients admitted every day over the past week. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)
Updated 08 August 2019

‘We are scared’: Deadly dengue outbreak overwhelms Bangladesh

  • Since January, almost 30,000 people have been hospitalized with dengue nationwide
  • Dengue, which causes flu-like symptoms, can be deadly if it develops into a hemorrhagic fever

DHAKA: Five-year-old Mohammad Ahnaf lies in a makeshift bed in the balcony of a major hospital in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, fighting for his life as dengue fever ravages his little body.
But his mother Shimul Akhter knows he is one of the lucky ones as Bangladesh grapples with its worst-ever outbreak of the viral fever — 23 have died and many cannot get access to medical help at all.
Since January, almost 30,000 people have been hospitalized with the disease nationwide, and in the past week some 2,000 patients a day have been admitted to hospitals.
“The situation is like an epidemic. But no-one is admitting it,” one expert, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP adding the real number of those with dengue was likely to be several times higher than official figures, which are based on limited data.
Panic is setting in. Such is the terror of those with symptoms that medical staff have been attacked as they try to stretch the meagre resources around and in some cases armed guards have been called in for protection.
Facilities are struggling to cope with the influx — mattresses line every inch of spare floor extending beyond wards into corridors and balconies.




In this file photo taken on August 4, 2019 shows Bangladeshi children suffering from dengue fever and their relatives as they receive treatment in beds on the floor of a ward at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)


Dengue, which causes flu-like symptoms, can be deadly if it develops into a hemorrhagic fever. There is no vaccine or any specific medicine to treat dengue, according to the World Health Organization.
Authorities are worried the situation is set to worsen.
With the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holidays, the fever could spread to remote villages as tens of millions of people head back to rural areas to celebrate the Muslim festival.
At Suhrawardi Medical College Hospital in central Dhaka where Ahnaf has been admitted, all the wards are full of dengue patients.
New arrivals are given whatever open space is available in the hospital.




A Bangladeshi child suffering from dengue fever receiving treatment at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)


“There is no bed available inside the wards. Too many patients are getting admitted and too many patients have been sent back,” Akhter said.
“But Allah was kind, we got a bed in the balcony after waiting for hours,” the 30-year-old added.
At the hospital’s diagnosis center, hundreds of people — many clutching sick babies in their laps — queued up to take dengue tests.
“Doctors decide which dengue patient should be admitted to hospital and who would take treatment at home.
“But people’s attitude toward dengue has changed. They are panicked and everyone wants to get admitted in the hospital,” explained Suhrawardi’s director Uttam Kumar Barua, adding that exhausted medical teams had been working round the clock for weeks.




A Bangladeshi man suffering from dengue fever rests at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital in Dhaka. (AFP/Munir Uz Zaman)


Outside, people crowd pharmacies to buy mosquito repellents, with some stores running out of supplies in recent days. Other residents say the ointments and sprays are now being sold at exorbitant prices.
The head of Bangladesh’s National Health Rights Society, renowned doctor Rashid-e-Mahbub, said the “national disaster” was in part caused by the lack of anti-mosquito measures before the annual monsoon season.
Leading virologist Saifullah Munshi added that a construction boom in Dhaka, unplanned urbanization and climate change — which has caused a spike in humidity and intermittent rains — had created ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito, which spreads the disease.

The country’s health department said some 23 people have died so far, although it has cautioned the official fatality figures are low due to a slow validation process.
But mass circulation Bengali daily Prothom Alo said the death toll was nearly 100.
Meanwhile, Akhter fears for her family’s health. The hospital doesn’t have a dedicated paediatric intensive care unit to handle severe cases such as Mohammad.
Her other son, who is just three years old, is also starting to feel feverish.
She says: “We are very much scared. My elder boy is still not out of danger. Now he (younger son) felt warm this morning. I hope he has not caught dengue.”


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.