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Nation in turmoil: Judicial probe of killings and dialogue indispensable

Appallingly monstrous as it is, innocent injured victims of ghastly arson attacks are being admitted to hospitals and vehicles are torched day in and day out on the main thoroughfares of Dhaka city, intensely guarded by various law enforcing agencies including the paramilitary BGB troops despite repeated calls for ‘peaceful’ blockade by the opposition BNP whose secretary general is imprisoned, 1787 leaders have been sued and over three hundred thousand opposition men stand accused [vide the Daily Star, January 07, 2015]. As so many arrests and police cases have obviously weakened the opposition BNP, and PM Sheikh Hasina said on Jan 11, 2015 that the government would “do whatever is necessary to ensure security of the people”, so puzzled and dumbfounded people are pondering as to who are responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violent activities and hurling of bombs across the country.
However, alleging that “joint forces were creating a reign of terror in different parts of the country”, former Prime Minister and opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia held the government and the ruling party responsible for the killings.  
For reasons best known to the incumbents, those police cases were not pursued. Meanwhile, during the past fortnight 15 opposition leaders and workers were shot dead by police, RAB personnel and ruling party men, in addition to in the so-called “encounter”. In Chapainawabganj, fearing arrest, most of the males in two villages of Shibganj upazila are staying away from home at night after members of the joint forces of police, RAB and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) allegedly ransacked and torched houses during raids there on 15 January.
Doubt and suspicion last week befuddled all and sundry how on earth gunshots could be fired at former ambassador and state minister for foreign affairs and advisor to Khaleda Zia Riaz Rahman by four persons riding two motorbikes at that high-security impenetrable restricted area strictly monitored with closed circuit (CC) cameras—-which had been most extensively guarded for many days round-the-clock by a large number of armed police personnel with modern devices and various transport vehicles.
As scores of policemen, RAB personnel and the like miserably failed to catch then and there those bandits who—-apparently in a relaxed manner—-doused Riaz Rahman’s car with petrol to set it alight and comfortably drove away, so should not all those inefficient officers and personnel of those forces deployed there on that evening be discharged from service forthwith? Are they not shockingly incompetent for any job, let alone government security service for maintaining law and order? Indeed they are both threat and liability. Earlier, the car of BNP Chairperson’s adviser Sabihuddin Ahmed was torched on January 11 near Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office in front of policemen on duty there.
It is very much pertinent to ask who sowed the seed of this absolutely unnecessary trouble which has now assumed the shape of turmoil. The answer is: Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina. At a public meeting she stated that people are united for caretaker government (CG) to ensure free and fair general elections and launched movement for CG, joined by Jamat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party, from 1994 to1996 during which years she called Hartals and blockades for 96 days, in addition to one uninterrupted 96-hour hartal, two 72-hour hartals and five 48-hour hartals. In those programmes marked by vandalism, bomb blasts, cocktail bursts, gunshots and arson, over 50 people were killed and over 1,000 people were wounded, while the new railway station at Chittagong was demolished, according to Opinion.bdnews24.com  dated 10 June 2011.
In 1996 Sheikh Hasina had strongly rejected the idea of going to parliamentary elections under the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, but since 2011 Hasina is asking Khaleda to contest elections under Prime Minister Hasina. In 1996, responding to Hasina’s demand, Khaleda had the goodness to hold an election only for amending the Constitution to incorporate the provision of caretaker government (CG) which was welcomed by Hasina. But after three polls under three CGs, Hasina retracted and most unethically rescinded the CG provision from the Constitution. Is it not a brazen usurpation and double standard?
In sum, Khaleda’s demand is a morally and logically correct principled stand to ensure the citizens to exercise their voting right in free, fair and credible elections. But Sheikh Hasina has denied the people their voting right because she has made 154 persons of her choice lawmakers without votes! This severe political conflict may conflagrate unless Hasina goes by logic and reasoning.
Given that even an insignificant political party leader’s first and foremost goal is to gain popularity and reputation, it needs no elaboration that a big political party like BNP (enjoying far more public support than the ruling Awami League as surveys revealed) which has ruled Bangladesh for 16 years, should want to run the risk of inviting unpopularity and bad name by burning people and torching automobiles, which will mean its sure and certain political hara-kiri. Therefore, people are not buying this theory, although ruling imperious jabbers are blaming otherwise.
As we have over and over again said, meaningful dialogue with BNP brooks no delay to avert impending doom in this country where the populace including students, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals are distinctly divided into two groups—-a unique phenomenon in the world. Finally, we suggest immediate formation of judicial probe committees into arson, torching and killings by police etc headed by retired Supreme Court judges.

Comment

Appallingly monstrous as it is, innocent injured victims of ghastly arson attacks are being admitted to hospitals and vehicles are torched day in and day out on the main thoroughfares of Dhaka city, intensely guarded by various law enforcing agencies including the paramilitary BGB troops despite repeated calls for ‘peaceful’ blockade by the opposition BNP whose secretary general is imprisoned, 1787 leaders have been sued and over three hundred thousand opposition men stand accused [vide the Daily Star, January 07, 2015]. As so many arrests and police cases have obviously weakened the opposition BNP, and PM Sheikh Hasina said on Jan 11, 2015 that the government would “do whatever is necessary to ensure security of the people”, so puzzled and dumbfounded people are pondering as to who are responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violent activities and hurling of bombs across the country.
However, alleging that “joint forces were creating a reign of terror in different parts of the country”, former Prime Minister and opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia held the government and the ruling party responsible for the killings.  
For reasons best known to the incumbents, those police cases were not pursued. Meanwhile, during the past fortnight 15 opposition leaders and workers were shot dead by police, RAB personnel and ruling party men, in addition to in the so-called “encounter”. In Chapainawabganj, fearing arrest, most of the males in two villages of Shibganj upazila are staying away from home at night after members of the joint forces of police, RAB and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) allegedly ransacked and torched houses during raids there on 15 January.
Doubt and suspicion last week befuddled all and sundry how on earth gunshots could be fired at former ambassador and state minister for foreign affairs and advisor to Khaleda Zia Riaz Rahman by four persons riding two motorbikes at that high-security impenetrable restricted area strictly monitored with closed circuit (CC) cameras—-which had been most extensively guarded for many days round-the-clock by a large number of armed police personnel with modern devices and various transport vehicles.
As scores of policemen, RAB personnel and the like miserably failed to catch then and there those bandits who—-apparently in a relaxed manner—-doused Riaz Rahman’s car with petrol to set it alight and comfortably drove away, so should not all those inefficient officers and personnel of those forces deployed there on that evening be discharged from service forthwith? Are they not shockingly incompetent for any job, let alone government security service for maintaining law and order? Indeed they are both threat and liability. Earlier, the car of BNP Chairperson’s adviser Sabihuddin Ahmed was torched on January 11 near Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office in front of policemen on duty there.
It is very much pertinent to ask who sowed the seed of this absolutely unnecessary trouble which has now assumed the shape of turmoil. The answer is: Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina. At a public meeting she stated that people are united for caretaker government (CG) to ensure free and fair general elections and launched movement for CG, joined by Jamat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party, from 1994 to1996 during which years she called Hartals and blockades for 96 days, in addition to one uninterrupted 96-hour hartal, two 72-hour hartals and five 48-hour hartals. In those programmes marked by vandalism, bomb blasts, cocktail bursts, gunshots and arson, over 50 people were killed and over 1,000 people were wounded, while the new railway station at Chittagong was demolished, according to Opinion.bdnews24.com  dated 10 June 2011.
In 1996 Sheikh Hasina had strongly rejected the idea of going to parliamentary elections under the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, but since 2011 Hasina is asking Khaleda to contest elections under Prime Minister Hasina. In 1996, responding to Hasina’s demand, Khaleda had the goodness to hold an election only for amending the Constitution to incorporate the provision of caretaker government (CG) which was welcomed by Hasina. But after three polls under three CGs, Hasina retracted and most unethically rescinded the CG provision from the Constitution. Is it not a brazen usurpation and double standard?
In sum, Khaleda’s demand is a morally and logically correct principled stand to ensure the citizens to exercise their voting right in free, fair and credible elections. But Sheikh Hasina has denied the people their voting right because she has made 154 persons of her choice lawmakers without votes! This severe political conflict may conflagrate unless Hasina goes by logic and reasoning.
Given that even an insignificant political party leader’s first and foremost goal is to gain popularity and reputation, it needs no elaboration that a big political party like BNP (enjoying far more public support than the ruling Awami League as surveys revealed) which has ruled Bangladesh for 16 years, should want to run the risk of inviting unpopularity and bad name by burning people and torching automobiles, which will mean its sure and certain political hara-kiri. Therefore, people are not buying this theory, although ruling imperious jabbers are blaming otherwise.
As we have over and over again said, meaningful dialogue with BNP brooks no delay to avert impending doom in this country where the populace including students, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals are distinctly divided into two groups—-a unique phenomenon in the world. Finally, we suggest immediate formation of judicial probe committees into arson, torching and killings by police etc headed by retired Supreme Court judges.


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Russian gas deal goes awry because of Ukrainian crisis

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Relations between Russia and some of its traditional European allies have soured over its role in the Ukraine crisis. It is believed that the US influenced the EU’s initial soft policy towards Russia because of its dependence of Russian gas. Finally EU agreed with the US to impose sanctions on Russia.
Nato’s expansion eastward has long been cited by Russian leaders as a direct threat to their country’s security, and the possibility of Nato bases in central and eastern European countries has been a driving factor behind Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
One of the fallouts from this crisis is the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project. It is aimed at strengthening the European energy security. It is another real step in pursuing the Gazprom strategy to diversify the Russian natural gas supply routes. The new gas pipeline system meeting the most recent environmental and engineering requirements will significantly raise the energy security throughout mainland Europe.

South Stream pipeline suspended
South Stream’s offshore section with the total length of 930 kilometers will run under the Black Sea through the exclusive economic zones of Russia, Bulgaria and Turkey. The maximum depth will be more than two kilometers and the design capacity will amount to 63 billion cubic meters.
The onshore section will cross Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia. The gas pipeline will end at the Tarvisio gas metering station in Italy. Gas branches from the main pipeline route will be built to Croatia and to Republika Srpska (the state formation within Bosnia and Herzegovina).
In order to feed the required amount of gas into the South Stream gas pipeline, Russia’s gas transmission system will be expanded by means of constructing the additional 2,506.2 kilometers of line pipe and 10 compressor stations  with the total capacity of 1,516 MW. This project has been named Southern Corridor and will be implemented in two phases before 2018.
Between 2008 and 2011 the intergovernmental agreements on the project implementation were signed with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia. Gazprom signed bilateral agreements on cooperation within the project with the authorized national companies: Serbian Srbijagas, Hungarian Development Bank MFB, Bulgarian Energy Holding, Greek gas transmission system operator DESFA, Austrian OMV and Slovenian Geoplin Plinovodi.
Construction work on the South Stream project began in Bulgaria in October 2013 but was suspended in June 2014 after the European Commission said it might be breaking EU competition rules.
Bulgaria, an EU state, has said it feels it is being targeted by Brussels as a means of retaliating against Russia over the situation in Ukraine.  German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has named the reasons pushing Europe to stop South Stream construction. “The European Union was seeking to hinder the project in every possible way,” Schroeder, who currently chairs the board of Nord Stream AG (the operator of Nord Stream), TASS quotes him as saying at a closed-door meeting of European and Russian businessmen.

EU economy may suffer
He reportedly blamed the “European bureaucrats and their “tricks”,” the drop in gas demand and the refusal to accept South Stream as an opportunity for improving Europe’s gas supply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the proposed South Stream gas pipeline will not go ahead. Speaking on a visit to Turkey on December 1, he said Russia would instead look at creating a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border.
“Taking account of the fact that until now we have not received permission from Bulgaria, we believe that in the current conditions Russia cannot continue with the realisation of this project,” said Putin, speaking alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
“If Europe does not want to carry out (South Stream), then it will not be carried out, We are now going to focus our energy resources in other directions.”  Russia and Turkey are major trading partners. Russia provides the bulk of Turkey’s gas requirements and is set to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Since then, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, has reportedly suggested that South Stream might yet be built. After meeting with her, the new Bulgarian Prime Minister said that he was confident that European objections could be overcome.
Many analysts believe that deterioration of EU-Russian relations would jeopardize the already sub-single digit growth in many EU countries. And the most promising option, an energy boycott from Russia appears to be out of the question for another 15 years because of the lack of viable alternatives and infrastructure.
Any decision to ratchet up opposition, which would likely be driven by those with few economic ties with Russia, would run the risk of splitting the EU. So, Europe will likely come up with a relatively moderate response, highlighting its principled stance but not trying to punish Russia in any way that could really hurt.

Paradigm change
As a result of this approach, European political actors will seek to deny a paradigm shift from “Russia as a partner to Russia as an opponent”, so as not to irritate or scare their domestic public.
In all probability, the Kremlin will be aware of the change in paradigm, but will also recognise Europe’s effort to deny the shift. The Putin administration can live with being perceived as Europe’s principal opponent, because that would give Russia meaning, respect, and attention within Russia.
Russia’s leadership will also see that European policymakers do not want to scare their domestic audiences, which will make the Europeans cautious about portraying Russia as the main opponent, even though they may act on that premise.
In Russia, the Western response is already perceived as proof of its anti-Russian approach and as evidence of its previous strategy to steal Ukraine from the “Russian World”. In geopolitical terms, this amounts to another version of the “Russia first” approach, even though this will be denied in official statements.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Comment

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Relations between Russia and some of its traditional European allies have soured over its role in the Ukraine crisis. It is believed that the US influenced the EU’s initial soft policy towards Russia because of its dependence of Russian gas. Finally EU agreed with the US to impose sanctions on Russia.
Nato’s expansion eastward has long been cited by Russian leaders as a direct threat to their country’s security, and the possibility of Nato bases in central and eastern European countries has been a driving factor behind Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
One of the fallouts from this crisis is the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project. It is aimed at strengthening the European energy security. It is another real step in pursuing the Gazprom strategy to diversify the Russian natural gas supply routes. The new gas pipeline system meeting the most recent environmental and engineering requirements will significantly raise the energy security throughout mainland Europe.

South Stream pipeline suspended
South Stream’s offshore section with the total length of 930 kilometers will run under the Black Sea through the exclusive economic zones of Russia, Bulgaria and Turkey. The maximum depth will be more than two kilometers and the design capacity will amount to 63 billion cubic meters.
The onshore section will cross Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia. The gas pipeline will end at the Tarvisio gas metering station in Italy. Gas branches from the main pipeline route will be built to Croatia and to Republika Srpska (the state formation within Bosnia and Herzegovina).
In order to feed the required amount of gas into the South Stream gas pipeline, Russia’s gas transmission system will be expanded by means of constructing the additional 2,506.2 kilometers of line pipe and 10 compressor stations  with the total capacity of 1,516 MW. This project has been named Southern Corridor and will be implemented in two phases before 2018.
Between 2008 and 2011 the intergovernmental agreements on the project implementation were signed with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia. Gazprom signed bilateral agreements on cooperation within the project with the authorized national companies: Serbian Srbijagas, Hungarian Development Bank MFB, Bulgarian Energy Holding, Greek gas transmission system operator DESFA, Austrian OMV and Slovenian Geoplin Plinovodi.
Construction work on the South Stream project began in Bulgaria in October 2013 but was suspended in June 2014 after the European Commission said it might be breaking EU competition rules.
Bulgaria, an EU state, has said it feels it is being targeted by Brussels as a means of retaliating against Russia over the situation in Ukraine.  German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has named the reasons pushing Europe to stop South Stream construction. “The European Union was seeking to hinder the project in every possible way,” Schroeder, who currently chairs the board of Nord Stream AG (the operator of Nord Stream), TASS quotes him as saying at a closed-door meeting of European and Russian businessmen.

EU economy may suffer
He reportedly blamed the “European bureaucrats and their “tricks”,” the drop in gas demand and the refusal to accept South Stream as an opportunity for improving Europe’s gas supply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the proposed South Stream gas pipeline will not go ahead. Speaking on a visit to Turkey on December 1, he said Russia would instead look at creating a gas hub on the Turkish-Greek border.
“Taking account of the fact that until now we have not received permission from Bulgaria, we believe that in the current conditions Russia cannot continue with the realisation of this project,” said Putin, speaking alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
“If Europe does not want to carry out (South Stream), then it will not be carried out, We are now going to focus our energy resources in other directions.”  Russia and Turkey are major trading partners. Russia provides the bulk of Turkey’s gas requirements and is set to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Since then, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, has reportedly suggested that South Stream might yet be built. After meeting with her, the new Bulgarian Prime Minister said that he was confident that European objections could be overcome.
Many analysts believe that deterioration of EU-Russian relations would jeopardize the already sub-single digit growth in many EU countries. And the most promising option, an energy boycott from Russia appears to be out of the question for another 15 years because of the lack of viable alternatives and infrastructure.
Any decision to ratchet up opposition, which would likely be driven by those with few economic ties with Russia, would run the risk of splitting the EU. So, Europe will likely come up with a relatively moderate response, highlighting its principled stance but not trying to punish Russia in any way that could really hurt.

Paradigm change
As a result of this approach, European political actors will seek to deny a paradigm shift from “Russia as a partner to Russia as an opponent”, so as not to irritate or scare their domestic public.
In all probability, the Kremlin will be aware of the change in paradigm, but will also recognise Europe’s effort to deny the shift. The Putin administration can live with being perceived as Europe’s principal opponent, because that would give Russia meaning, respect, and attention within Russia.
Russia’s leadership will also see that European policymakers do not want to scare their domestic audiences, which will make the Europeans cautious about portraying Russia as the main opponent, even though they may act on that premise.
In Russia, the Western response is already perceived as proof of its anti-Russian approach and as evidence of its previous strategy to steal Ukraine from the “Russian World”. In geopolitical terms, this amounts to another version of the “Russia first” approach, even though this will be denied in official statements.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.


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 VIEW POINT

WORLD LEPROSY DAY
GO-NGO co-op needed to eliminate the disease

Parvez Babul

ON NEXT Sunday, 25 January 2015, the World Leprosy Day will be observed across the world. Though leprosy is curable yet there are still millions of people around the world living with this disease and disability.  The people in poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh and other countries are affected most due to poverty, stigma and lack of collaboration and coordination between government and NGOs. The Leprosy Day was initiated in 1954 by French philanthropist and writer Raoul Follereau, as a way to raise global awareness of this deadly ancient disease. Follereau believed that those affected by leprosy should receive the same respect, dignity and quality of care as any other patients. Additionally, he wanted greater awareness of the disease in order to change attitudes, superstitions and to reduce stigma.
Leprosy is a chronic disease affecting the nerves and the skin. If not treated, sufferers can become blind, lose the sensations in their hands and feet; and become prone to a disability through the threat of injury. Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind. It is also known as Hansen’s disease, named after Norwegian physician Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen. He debunked the prevailing notion of the time that leprosy was a hereditary disease. He showed that the disease had a bacterial cause instead. For thousands of years, people with leprosy have been stigmatized and considered to be at the extreme margins of the society.
The aim of World Leprosy Day is to change this attitude and increase public awareness of the fact that leprosy can now be easily prevented and cured. Government of Bangladesh, NGOs/ Civil  Society Organizations, health workers,  and media people must work together with effective collaboration to make our Bangladesh free from leprosy. The World Health Organization has urged every state including Bangaldesh to give emphasis on leprosy elimination soon.  
To realize the plights of the people with leprosy and lack of treatment facilities at government hospitals in Bangladesh, let us go through a case study of one Hamela Begum (60) of Bhola District. She was a day labourer. Due to disability for leprosy she looks ugly; people started to neglect and avoid her. Hamela noticed few pale anaesthetic skin patches on her body about 10 years ago. She did not know the disease. She avoided it and was doing her normal work, because people of that area were actually ignorant. After three years, she went to the local village doctor to show her skin patches and numbness on her hand. The village doctor was unable to diagnose leprosy. Meanwhile, she had to spend huge hard-earned money for treatment, but every effort went in vain. After that she faced extreme poverty and she got claw fingers; both eyes were lagophtholmos (inability to close the eyelids completely), and got ulcer on the right foot along with other complications. But unfortunately she did not get proper treatment anywhere.
In October 2013, Coordination for Advocacy (CAN) Project of the Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh (TLMI-B) organized an Extended Contact Survey in Bhola District through community volunteers in cooperation with HEED Bangladesh and found Hamela with disability. Though last of all Multidrug Treatment (MDT) was given to her by civil surgeon of Bhola.  But in reality, there are thousands of Hamela Begum in our country; poverty itself is a disease for them. So getting proper treatment of leprosy is out  of their capacity. Considering the lack of awareness, ignorance and vulnerability of the poor patients, service-providers/ health workers should go forward to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people like Hamela. We should help them get MDT and other reconstructive surgery facilities in government hospitals through existing medical setups.   
The important message from this story is that though the government has declared Bangladesh as a leprosy free county on 2008, but all the government supports were reduced from those districts, though there are still many patients like Hamela. MDT is unavailable in that district.  MDT was carried there by CAN project and distributed among the patients like Hamela. She is now hoping to lead a healthy life by the support of CAN project. That is why it perfectly proves that GO-NGO collaboration is must for a leprosy-free Bangladesh.
It is important to mention that there are no government health staffs to treat leprosy at all district and upazila level hospitals. The relevant government health staffs are unable to create public awareness at field level to early case detection. Moreover, Bangladesh government has only three leprosy hospitals; 30.bed leprosy hospital and institute in Mohakhali, Dhaka; 20-bed leprosy hospital in Nilphamari, and 80 -bed leprosy hospital in Sylhet with inadequate medical facilities. Considering the urgent requirement, the government should immediately fulfil the required medical facilities with skilled health practitioners increasing the number of hospitals to provide services for leprosy case and complication management.  
There are approximately 30,000 people with leprosy in Bangladesh. Annually, on an average 4000 to 5000 cases are detected in the country. There are about 34,000 to 35,000 people in the country with deformity caused by leprosy.
In fact, for a leprosy-free Bangladesh collective efforts should be taken to promote awareness for reducing stigma and discrimination against people infected by leprosy.

Comment

Parvez Babul

ON NEXT Sunday, 25 January 2015, the World Leprosy Day will be observed across the world. Though leprosy is curable yet there are still millions of people around the world living with this disease and disability.  The people in poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh and other countries are affected most due to poverty, stigma and lack of collaboration and coordination between government and NGOs. The Leprosy Day was initiated in 1954 by French philanthropist and writer Raoul Follereau, as a way to raise global awareness of this deadly ancient disease. Follereau believed that those affected by leprosy should receive the same respect, dignity and quality of care as any other patients. Additionally, he wanted greater awareness of the disease in order to change attitudes, superstitions and to reduce stigma.
Leprosy is a chronic disease affecting the nerves and the skin. If not treated, sufferers can become blind, lose the sensations in their hands and feet; and become prone to a disability through the threat of injury. Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind. It is also known as Hansen’s disease, named after Norwegian physician Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen. He debunked the prevailing notion of the time that leprosy was a hereditary disease. He showed that the disease had a bacterial cause instead. For thousands of years, people with leprosy have been stigmatized and considered to be at the extreme margins of the society.
The aim of World Leprosy Day is to change this attitude and increase public awareness of the fact that leprosy can now be easily prevented and cured. Government of Bangladesh, NGOs/ Civil  Society Organizations, health workers,  and media people must work together with effective collaboration to make our Bangladesh free from leprosy. The World Health Organization has urged every state including Bangaldesh to give emphasis on leprosy elimination soon.  
To realize the plights of the people with leprosy and lack of treatment facilities at government hospitals in Bangladesh, let us go through a case study of one Hamela Begum (60) of Bhola District. She was a day labourer. Due to disability for leprosy she looks ugly; people started to neglect and avoid her. Hamela noticed few pale anaesthetic skin patches on her body about 10 years ago. She did not know the disease. She avoided it and was doing her normal work, because people of that area were actually ignorant. After three years, she went to the local village doctor to show her skin patches and numbness on her hand. The village doctor was unable to diagnose leprosy. Meanwhile, she had to spend huge hard-earned money for treatment, but every effort went in vain. After that she faced extreme poverty and she got claw fingers; both eyes were lagophtholmos (inability to close the eyelids completely), and got ulcer on the right foot along with other complications. But unfortunately she did not get proper treatment anywhere.
In October 2013, Coordination for Advocacy (CAN) Project of the Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh (TLMI-B) organized an Extended Contact Survey in Bhola District through community volunteers in cooperation with HEED Bangladesh and found Hamela with disability. Though last of all Multidrug Treatment (MDT) was given to her by civil surgeon of Bhola.  But in reality, there are thousands of Hamela Begum in our country; poverty itself is a disease for them. So getting proper treatment of leprosy is out  of their capacity. Considering the lack of awareness, ignorance and vulnerability of the poor patients, service-providers/ health workers should go forward to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people like Hamela. We should help them get MDT and other reconstructive surgery facilities in government hospitals through existing medical setups.   
The important message from this story is that though the government has declared Bangladesh as a leprosy free county on 2008, but all the government supports were reduced from those districts, though there are still many patients like Hamela. MDT is unavailable in that district.  MDT was carried there by CAN project and distributed among the patients like Hamela. She is now hoping to lead a healthy life by the support of CAN project. That is why it perfectly proves that GO-NGO collaboration is must for a leprosy-free Bangladesh.
It is important to mention that there are no government health staffs to treat leprosy at all district and upazila level hospitals. The relevant government health staffs are unable to create public awareness at field level to early case detection. Moreover, Bangladesh government has only three leprosy hospitals; 30.bed leprosy hospital and institute in Mohakhali, Dhaka; 20-bed leprosy hospital in Nilphamari, and 80 -bed leprosy hospital in Sylhet with inadequate medical facilities. Considering the urgent requirement, the government should immediately fulfil the required medical facilities with skilled health practitioners increasing the number of hospitals to provide services for leprosy case and complication management.  
There are approximately 30,000 people with leprosy in Bangladesh. Annually, on an average 4000 to 5000 cases are detected in the country. There are about 34,000 to 35,000 people in the country with deformity caused by leprosy.
In fact, for a leprosy-free Bangladesh collective efforts should be taken to promote awareness for reducing stigma and discrimination against people infected by leprosy.


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