Dhaka, Feb 11 (UNB) – Though Bangladesh has already achieved the leprosy elimination target, WHO Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa thinks the country needs a further push with an all-out comprehensive approach to totally eliminate the world's oldest disease from here.
He said WHO and Nippon Foundation, a Japan-based non-profit private foundation, are going to help Bangladesh take an effective action programme to bring the leprosy situation to a zero level.
In an interview with UNB at the WHO office here, Sasakawa, who arrived here on a three-day visit on Sunday morning, said Bangladesh can include the leprosy issue in school education programme as creating awareness among people about the disease and removing the stigma and discrimination towards the affected people are crucial to achieve the best results in the work of eliminating leprosy.
According to WHO statistics, 3,000 to 4,000 new leprosy cases were detected every year from 2011-2017 in Bangladesh, while the disabilities among the detected cases are 7-11 percent.
“Leprosy is a very unique disease in comparison to other kind of diseases that exist. When it comes to leprosy, I use the analogy of a motorcycle. I see the front wheel and the rear wheel of a motorcycle as figuratively depicting medical care and the human rights issue of leprosy. Unless the two wheels move together, the solution to the leprosy problem will not be fully addressed,” the WHO Goodwill Ambassador said.
Sasakawa, who has been carrying out a fight against leprosy across the globe for more than 40 years, said Bangladesh and many other countries have achieved the elimination goal -- having less than 1 case per 10,000 population-- defined by the WHO.
“This is the milestone set by the WHO. So achieving this milestone doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is over. Because in some cases leprosy has an incubation period of three to seven years and sometime 10 years depending on the person,” he said.
The WHO Goodwill Ambassador for leprosy elimination said once a country achieves the elimination goal this country considers that to be achieving a success meaning that from that point on the various activities trend to remain stagnant.
“But, I think, there needs to have a further push in this kind of measures. We need to boost these measures from one more time so that we can actively start tackling the problem of leprosy once again,” he observed.
Sasakawa said Bangladesh has been dealing with leprosy as one of social issues and has taken various activities to this end.
He, however, thinks a further push is needed in order to end the leprosy problem in Bangladesh and Nippon Foundation and WHO are trying to help the Bangladesh government so that this final push yield a positive outcome. “We hope to launch a major campaign to bring this leprosy situation to a zero level.”
Stating that he is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the Health Minister today (Sunday), Sasakawa said he would urge them to try to reemphasise the need for eliminating leprosy from the country.
“We do need to further hit the awareness campaign nationwide so that people can know more about leprosy. We’re, therefore, thinking of hosting some sort of a nationwide conference enabling people to talk about re-strategising the measures towards leprosy,” he said.
The WHO envoy said each and every citizen of Bangladesh needs to know three major information-- leprosy-affected patients can get medicine free of cost, leprosy is completely curable and there’s no need to discriminate or feel stigmatized towards this disease-- to eliminate leprosy from Bangladesh.
Sasakawa, also the chairman of Nippon Foundation, said their organisation is providing necessary support to eliminate leprosy through the WHO.
Dhaka, Feb 9 (UNB) - Though a significant change is visible regarding helmet use by bike users in the capital, experts think the protective gear many passengers of ridesharing services wear are awfully unsafe and substandard.
Amid the enforcement of law for ensuring the helmet use by the bikers following the students’ ‘Safe Road’ movement, some ridesharing companies, including Uber, Pathao, Obhai and Shohoz, provided helmets to their riders, but police said most of those are just caps what the construction workers use.
Transport and urban experts said the government should fix specific criteria for using safe helmets and imposing a ban on importing substandard helmets and their use by bikers to ensure their safety as the number of users of the two-wheeler is growing fast.
Currently, motorbikes constitute around 60 percent of the country’s total vehicles, officials said.
The Traffic Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said they are thinking of launching a strong drive against the use of unsafe and low quality helmets and force the bikers to use standard ones.
Talking to UNB, some passengers of ridesharing services alleged that the helmets they are given by the bikers are below the standards and not capable to protect their faces and heads in case of any accident.
They also said most bikers use better helmets than ones they provide their passengers, and most of them keep the ordinary helmets only to show the law enforcers that they are abiding by the law.
“Though the ridesharing companies gave their driver partners helmets, they hardy use those and give those their passengers. In most cases, we see bike drivers give their passengers very low quality, dirty and poor quality helmets,” said Abul Kalam who often uses the service of UberMoto and Pathao.
Sadia Trina, another user of UberMoto and Pathao, said the helmets provided by both the companies are very light and poor quality which cannot properly adjust to the head. “As I wear spectacles I find it difficult to wear the helmets the bikers provide. I think such helmets are not safe. It seems to me the bike drivers keep name-only helpmates only to avoid punishment by the police, but they don’t understand its importance.”
Despite repeated requests for comment on the issue over phone and through email, the Uber authorities did not responded, apparently showing their apathy to the serious passenger safety issue while the Pathao spokesman could not be reached over phone.
Contacted, DMP deputy commissioner (traffic-west zone) Liton Kumar Saha said they are seriously worried over the safety of the passengers of ridesharing services as they use toy-type low-quality plastic helmets.
“Most of the helmets the passengers of the ridesharing services use are made of plastic which usually wear the construction workers. The poor quality helmets can’t protect the passengers in case of any accident,” he said.
Liton Kumar said they have so far worked for bringing a change in people’s habit of not using helmets while riding motorbikes. “We’ve got success in this regard as most bike riders now use helpmates.”
He said they are now planning to carry out a massive campaign to create awareness among bike riders to use standard helmets for their own safety. “We’re also thinking of setting the criteria for quality helmets.”
After the campaign, he said they will go for drastic action, including filing cases, against those who do not use quality helmets.
Urban expert and ex-chairman of University Grant Commission (UGC) Prof Nazrul Islam said it looks good as most bikers and their riders use helmets. “But, quality helmets are not used to ensure their safety. Law enforcers should look into the issue seriously.”
He said there is a tendency among the bikers to drive recklessly to increase their trips and thus income, causing the rise in bike accidents. “As the motorbike use is growing rapidly and many ridesharing companies are in operation here, the government should formulate a ridesharing policy to bring the bikers under discipline and force them to ensure passengers’ safety.”
Besides, he said, the government can think of keeping separate lanes for bikes, bicycles and rickshaws and auto-rickshaws in the main streets.
Prof Shamsul Huq, former director of Accident Research Unit of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology and a transport expert, said there is anarchy in the name of using helmets in the country as most bikers use ‘fancy and sub-standard ones for lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned.
He said safe and international standard helmets are heavy and expensive that is why bikers don not want to use those ignoring their personal safety. “Helmet is a life-saving instrument for motorbike riders, and riding bikes without safe helmets means putting the life at danger.”
Huq said the government should stop importing fancy and unsafe helmets. “Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) should set a standard of safe helmets and no one should be allowed to import those without BSTI’s clearance.”
Mentioning that motorbike accounts for around 60 percent of the country’s total vehicles, the Buet professor said a huge number of potential young use this mode of transport without ensuring their necessary safety. “So, the government should take the issue seriously to reduce the risk of bikers.”
Besides, he said, the ridesharing companies should either provide their driver partners with standard helmets or they should not allow them to enlist bikes who lack at least one pair of high quality helmets.
Dhaka, Feb 8 (UNB) – Amid deep uncertainty about the party’s political future following a massive defeat in the December-30 polls, BNP is going to observe the 1st anniversary of the jailing of its chairperson Khaleda Zia in a graft case with a simple programme on Friday.
Party senior leaders and Khaleda’s lawyers don not see any ray of hope to have Khaleda freed from jail any time soon as it depends on legal process without waging any strong street movement.
Political analysts think BNP should now focus on a movement over a single issue of Khaleda’s release to revive the party and rejuvenate its demoralised leaders and activists.
BNP will hold a protest rally at the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh on Friday afternoon, marking the anniversary.
The programme will begin around 2:30pm which will be addressed by party senior leaders, said BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Besides, the party’s different units across the country will hold the similar programme on Saturday.
BNP had a plan to hold a rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on Friday, but the party later postponed it due to the ongoing Ekushey Book Fair at the same venue.
On February 8, 2018, Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail after a lower court sentenced her to five years imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
On October 30, the High Court doubled her five-year jail term as she challenged the lower court verdict.
On October 29, Khaleda was convicted in Zia Charitable Trust corruption case and sentenced to seven years' rigorous imprisonment by a special court.
The BNP chief has now been facing around 36 cases, including Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable corruption ones.
After the jailing of their chairperson, BNP waged a peaceful movement and passed their days with different action programmes for over two months which apparently did not yield any positive result.
Later, the party joined different city polls, and finally the national election apparently leaving the issue of Khaleda’s release for the court to settle.
BNP nominated Khaleda as its candidate for contesting the national election from Feni-1, Bogura-6 and Bogura-7 seats, but the apex court and the Election Commission announced her ineligible for the polls.
Though the party joined the election leaving her in jail, BNP suffered a massive defeat as it got only six seats, frustrating the party rank and file.
Khaleda’s lawyers said the BNP chief now needs to get bail in four cases for walking out of jail, but the issue of her release depends on the good will of the government.
“It would be very tough to free Khaleda Zia through a normal legal process as the government has destroyed all the institutions, including the judiciary. I personally don’t believe we’ll be able to have her released from jail depending on the rule of law,” said BNP Vice-chairman and Khaleda’s counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain.
He said the only way to free her is to heat up the street. “Until we do it, we won’t be able to have Khaleda Zia released from jail.”
BNP insiders said though their senior leaders remained united for a long time in absence of its chairperson Khaleda Zia, a crack now has developed among them over its leadership and party overhauling.
Due to the division among the party leaders, they said BNP is being failed to come up with any action programmes to invigorate party’s disappointed grassroots after the December-30 national election.
Talking to UNB, pro-BNP intellectual and Dhaka University ex-Vice Chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed said it is apparent that BNP senior leaders are facing a trouble to run the party in absence of Khaleda.
He said BNP could neither register that much protest against the national ‘questionable’ national election nor come up with any effective programmes to revitalise its grassroots.
Emajuddin also said BNP should carry out both legal battle and movement to have Khaleda freed and stage a comeback in politics.
A BNP standing committee member, wishing anonymity said their party had three challenges--freeing Khaleda, wining national election and strengthening party --after its chairperson was sent to jail. “But, we couldn’t successfully overcome any of the challenges.”
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said the government has kept Khaleda in jail for a year only to put BNP in trouble. “We’re trying to get her released through a legal battle. We’ll also come up with action programmes to mount pressure on the government to free her.”
BNP standing committee member Barrister Jamiruddin Sircar said he is in doubt whether it will be possible to free Khaleda from jail through a legal process. “I think Khaleda Zia won’t be freed if we can’t initiate a strong fight on the streets.”
BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed said neither the court nor the lawyers can free Khaleda without the government’s good will.
“Khaleda Zia will be freed by seven days if the government stops its political interference. So, we must now wage a united movement to force the government to free her.”
Bangui (Central African Republic), Feb 8 (UNB)- The Bangladesh Special Force (BANSF) has been working round-the-clock to maintain peace and political stability alongside other international peacekeepers in the tumultuous Central African Republic (CAR) since 2016.
Volatility has been a salient feature of CAR ever since it gained independence from France in 1960. Although the landlocked country is rich in natural resources, such as diamonds, gold, oil and uranium, it has one of the poorest populations in the world.
The country has been rocked by violence in recent years. The Security Council, concerned with security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in the CAR, established MINUSCA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central African Republic) in 2014.
BANSF, a highly-skilled commando company of Bangladesh Army, works under the Force Commander of MINUSCA. Currently, BANSF is the third contingent from Bangladesh.
Last month, it carried out a mission, codenamed ‘Operation BEKPA 2’, in Bambari, some 380 kilometers east of capital Bangui. The Special Force thwarted an attempt to unleash violence by local armed group UPC – Union for Peace in the Central African Republic.
The situation in Bambari deteriorated several weeks ago after UPC killed two police officers ahead of a scheduled visit by CAR President Faustin-ArchangeTouadéra.
MINUSCA’s drones showed 30 to 40 UPC fighters attempting to prevent the advance of FACA (CAR army) and Gendarmerie (police force of CAR) in the city dominated by the armed group.
BANSF, along with Portuguese and Nepalese peacekeepers, launched ‘Operation BEKPA 2’ on January 17. The operation, starting 8am (local time), lasted eight hours.
UPC members put up resistance with heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades, but the Special Forces pushed forward. They forced UPC members to flee leaving behind firearms and ammunition.
BANSF destroyed an ammunition dump and recovered a huge cache of rocket launchers, rifles, uniforms, and locally-made weapons. All UPC shelters were destroyed by Bangladesh Special Force during the operation.
The commandos also captured three suspected UPC members, and handed them over to local authorities. A number of documents related to activities of the militant leaders were also recovered.
There was hardly any presence of the armed element after the successful operation and the locals were elated. MINUSCA’s Force Commander Lt Gen Balla Keita sent a letter of appreciation.
No Bangladeshi commando was injured or killed during the mission, Major Md Shahidul Islam, the commander of ‘Operation BEKPA 2’, told a seven-member visiting Bangladesh delegation during a presentation about activities of BANSF at M’POKO Green Field BANSF Camp in Bangui.
The seven-member delegation, led by Maj Gen Md Masud Razzaq, has been visiting CAR in UN missions areas as a part of ‘goodwill visit’. Brig Gen Kh Md Mozammel Haque is also included in the delegation.
Maj Islam said they would conduct similar operations if the armed group tried to make a comeback to the area.
Satkhira, Feb 7 (UNB) - The residents of three villages in Ashashuniupazila bemoan that the local administration is not paying heed to their longstanding demand for constructing a concrete bridge over the Balua River in the upazila to facilitate their movement.
The three villages are Khejurdanga, Parkhejurdanga and Bashtala under Kadakati union.
The existing bamboo bridge was built about a decade ago after the river dried up, taking the shape of a canal. Around 15,000 residents of the three villages, including a good number of schoolchildren, are forced to cross the rickety bridge every day for various purposes.
Many locals said the schoolchildren slipped from the bamboo bridge most of the time and fell into the river.
Songita Rani, a resident of Khejurdanga village, said “I’ve to help my children cross the bridge every day when they go to school and return.”
Anjana Das, a student of a local school, said, “We use the bamboo bridge for going to school, putting our lives at risk.”
Not all students know how to swim.
Biplab Kumar Gain, headmaster of Khejurdanga Government Primary School, said the guardians of students were worried for the safety of their children as they have to use the bamboo bridge for coming to the educational institution.
“The bridge, built by the local union parishad chairman with the Union Parishad’s funding, is very risky. Our demands of constructing a bridge over the river many times for the sake of the children have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
Biplab requested the local administration to construct a concrete bridge as soon as possible.
Upazila Primary Education Officer Samsunnahar said locals had long been demanding a bridge over the river. “The matter has been brought to the notice of the local administration,” she said.
AshashuniUpazila UNO Mir Alif Reza said a bridge could not be built because of administrative complexities.
“Steps will be taken to ensure that a bridge is constructed over the river as soon as possible,” he said.