Deadly Diarrheal Outbreak Afflicts Rohingya Residents on Bangladesh Island, Refugees Say

Lack of knowledge about hygiene may be at fault, a district health officer says.

Deadly Diarrheal Outbreak Afflicts Rohingya Residents on Bangladesh Island, Refugees Say

At least four Rohingya children and an adult died of diarrhea and thousands more have been afflicted in the last two weeks on a Bangladeshi island, refugees said on Thursday about the first outbreak of any disease at the site, which has been criticized for lacking adequate health facilities.

Dr. Masum Iftekhar, the chief health officer in Noakhali – a district that encompasses Bhashan Char Island where nearly 19,000 Rohingya refugees are confined – said he could confirm that one Rohingya died of diarrhea in a hospital but the cause of death of the other four had not yet been determined.

Iftekhar said about 1,000 Rohingya contracted diarrhea, while Mohammad Jobayer, a Rohingya leader living in Bhashan Char, said about 3,000 people there have suffered from it.

“Five people, including four children, have died,” Jobayer told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, by telephone.

“During the last two weeks, 2,000 to 3,000 people in Bhashan Char had diarrhea. Many people have been undergoing treatment at hospitals.”

Iftekhar said about 600 Rohingya were admitted to a hospital suffering from diarrhea during the past two weeks.

“Only one Rohingya died of diarrhea at a hospital. We have yet to ascertain whether diarrhea killed the other four persons,” he told BenarNews.

Seventeen diarrhea patients were admitted to Bhashan Char’s hospital in the previous 24 hours, he said on Thursday.

“The media reports suggesting that up to 5,000 Rohingya in Bhashan Char had diarrhea during the last 15 days are not true. At best, 1,000 Rohingya took diarrhea treatment,” Iftekhar said.

“The diarrhea situation in Bhashan Char is under control.”

Meanwhile, according to another refugee, many Rohingya who contracted diarrhea could not get treatment.

“Many of the victims died before being taken to a hospital,” Mohammad Nurul Islam told BenarNews. “Many of them have been taking treatment at houses because the hospitals cannot accommodate them.”

Bhashan Char has a 20-bed government hospital while NGOs operate six health centers there, Mohammad Atiqul Mamun, the island representative of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s office, told BenarNews.

Since December 2020, Bangladesh’s government has moved close to 19,000 Rohingya to the island and away from camps in mainland Cox’s Bazar district, where some 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are sheltering.

The government, which built facilities and infrastructure on the Bay of Bengal island to accommodate a refugee population in order to ease crowding in the mainland camps, maintains that the Rohingya agreed to relocate off-shore and were not compelled to move.

Cause not yet identified

Iftekhar, the district health officer, could not identify the cause of the outbreak on Bhashan Char but said it could be because of a lack of knowledge about hygiene.

“We have adopted the necessary measures to contain the situation. We have provided the Rohingya all possible assistance – adequate quantity of water purifying tablets and oral saline,” he said.

“A campaign to create awareness about diarrhea among the Rohingya is under way.”

Public health expert Mahbubur Rahman, a doctor based in Dhaka, said officials must test the water on Bhashan Char.

“The first consideration, is whether there is any problem with the source of water. We need to examine the water the Rohingya use for cooking and observe if they use soap after using the toilet,” Rahman told BenarNews

“The authorities need to launch big awareness campaigns about personal health and hygiene among the Rohingya. A multimedia content in their language would help.”

Bangladesh sees an uptick in diarrhea infections every year starting in the summer, which begins in mid-April, and running into the monsoon season, which begins in June.

Outbreaks of diarrhea have been reported in Noakhali district outside Bhashan Char since April where 21 people have died, Iftekhar said.

Similar outbreaks have been reported in Barishal and Bhola districts in south-central Bangladesh since April, killing 22 people so far, according to official estimates.

In June, at least 11 people died of diarrhea in Bandarban district, which borders Myanmar and also hosts Rohingya camps.

Between 2000 and 2016, Bangladesh reduced diarrhea deaths of children 5 and younger from 38,877 to 7,062, according to The Borgen Project, an American anti-poverty NGO.

On March 10, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics told reporters that diarrhea killed 7,213 people in 2019 and 7,201 in 2020.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Uyghur Businessman Sentenced to 17 Years in Prison For Ties to Turkey

Musajan Imam had founded the Ihlas grocery store chain and was known for his philanthropic work.

Uyghur Businessman Sentenced to 17 Years in Prison For Ties to Turkey

The Uyghur founder of a grocery store chain with more than 500 food stores and 200 product lines throughout China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) was sentenced in May to more than 17 years in prison for his alleged “suspicious” relations with Turkey, following a three-year investigation, sources outside and inside the region told RFA.

Authorities detained Musajan Imam, the founder and owner of Ihlas shops, in 2018, and held his trial last month. He was sentenced to 17 and a half years in jail, according to the Norway-based “Uyghuryar” Foundation, which recently obtained information about the businessman’s case from a source well-connected to political and legal matters in the XUAR.

“We received information that Musa Imam was sentenced to 17 years and six months’ imprisonment,” said Uyghuryar founder and linguist Abduweli Ayup.

RFA was able to confirm the sentencing and further details from relevant officials in the XUAR.

Musajan was praised by the Chinese government as a “model of reform and opening up” after he introduced food products made by Ulker, a Turkish food and beverage brand, to markets in the XUAR in the early 2000s. His business enterprise also includes 50 wholesale outlets.

“Musajan Imam founded Ihlas in 2002,” Abduweli said. “The Ihlas company worked with companies such as Ulker in Turkey and opened branch companies and shops in cities such as Urumqi (in Chinese, Wulumuqi), Kashgar (Kashi), Hotan (Hetian), Turpan (Tulufan), and Qomul (Hami). Musa Imam was detained in June of 2018.”

By 2018, he had become a “suspicious person” in the eyes of the authorities and was taken into state custody from an Ihlas office in the XUAR’s capital Urumqi on June 14 of that year, Abduweli said.

During early interrogations, police asked Musajan for information about the origins and history of his business trade with Turkey, he said.

They also demanded information about the identities of people on the Turkish side of his business dealings, and his conversations with them, especially ones he had with Kursad Tuzman, Turkey’s former minister of state responsible for foreign trade from 2002 to 2009.

Musajan told police that his communications had been permitted and open, and that there were no issues that needed to be reported, Abduweli said.

“In the information we received, the fact that Musa Imam distributed products by the Turkish company Ulker and had close relationships with high-level leaders in Turkey were given as reasons [for his detention],” Abduweli said.

Several reasons for arrest

A court official in Kizilsu Kirghiz (Kezileisu Keerkezi) Autonomous Prefecture, where the trial and sentencing took place, declined to comment on the case, saying it was sensitive. But the officials did not deny that the businessman had been tried among a group of leading Uyghur entrepreneurs who recently stood trial and were sentenced in the city of Atush (Atushi).

Records from Musajan’s interrogations suggest that other “issues” for which he was detained included his role in expanding halal foods in the XUAR, the Uyghur style he used to decorate his buildings, the businesses he owned, the identities of the people and organizations to whom he gave zakat (tithes), and his donations for the building of two elementary schools, Abduweli said.

China has in recent years tightened the repression of Uyghur and Islamic cultural practices under in what authorities say is an effort to combat extremism.

Musajan’s relationship with Turkey weighed heavily in his sentencing, Abduweli added.

“Based on this information, we see Musajan Imam’s detention as connected to things like his long-standing relationships to people in the political class in Turkey and his role in creating a social environment to strengthen relations between Uyghurs and Turks,” he said.

Musajan is the younger brother of the late Kudrat Imam, a well-known entrepreneur who founded Qiran Burkut Real Estate. Kudrat and another of Musajan’s older brothers, Rozi Imam, received Turkish citizenship. Musajan was interrogated about his relationship with his older brothers when questioned by the authorities, Abduweli said.

Musajan’s brothers did business in Central Asia and Turkey, and in the 1990s they built a 20-story building in Urumqi for a shopping center called Kiran Burkut. This building was a very visible structure reflecting Uyghur culture in the city at the time, alongside another shopping center built by Uyghur businesswoman and political activist Rebiya Kadeer.

An official at the Atush Intermediate People’s Court told RFA to contact the prosecuting authorities for information about Musajan’s arrest and sentencing.

Another source claiming familiarity with the situation told RFA that Musajan had been conducting business separately from his two brothers in Turkey since 2005, specifically to guard against any scandals or trouble.

Musajan had a disagreement with his Chinese business partners while he and his brothers were constructing a building in Urumqi in the early 2000s before he separated his businesses from those of his Turkish-citizen brothers, Abduweli said.

The brothers used their Turkish citizenship as a means of resolving the issue, but the incident was later raised and used as retaliation against Musajan in the post-2017 environment in the XUAR, when Chinese authorities began forcing Uyghurs into “re-education” camps, Abduweli said.

“Even though this situation was more or less resolved back at the time, after the start of the mass detention campaign in 2017, the Chinese government brought this issue back up and blamed [Musajan], saying that [the brothers] had used their Turkish citizenship to put pressure on the [Chinese] government,” Abduweli said.

‘Such good works’

Musajan’s case is one of the highest secrecy cases in the XUAR, Abduweli said. The businessman has not seen his family since his 2018 detention, nor have his relatives been formally notified of the verdict of his recent trial.

Musajan’s son-in-law, Muzappar Imam, the general manager of his company, and his nephew, Akbar Ala, the owner of Hayat Trading Company, were also arrested and sentenced in April trials, according to information obtained by the Uyghuryar Foundation. The lengths of the two men’s sentences are unknown.

An official working in investigations in Atush confirmed that Musajan is currently serving his sentence in the city’s Aghu Prison.

Musajan’s business, formally called Ihlas Professional Development Company, has more than 2,000 employees. In addition to creating jobs for many young Uyghurs, Ikhlas has also long been a leading business in the local economy.

The Ihlas company also addressed traffic issues, laid roads in Azaq in Atush, and built a water tower in the city so that locals had clean water drink. The company also provided assistance to Xinjiang University students facing financial difficulties and distributed more than 100 million yuan (U.S. $15.6 million) annually to help the poor in Kashgar, Hotan, and Atush.

“Even having done such good works, Imam Musa, his son, and his nephew were unable to escape detention,” Abduweli said.

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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