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Bangladesh rushes aid after cold snap kills 51

Caritas joins the relief effort by offering blankets and warm clothes to winter victims

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Bangladesh rushes aid after cold snap kills 51

An elderly man wrapped in a shawl walks in Sirajganj district of northern Bangladesh on Dec. 22. This year’s chilling winter has left at least 51 dead and affected thousands in the country. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/ucanews)

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Bangladesh has been shivering under cold weather that has led to the deaths of 51 people and affected thousands in recent weeks.

Fifty-one people have died from cold-related diseases including respiratory infections, diarrhea and pneumonia and about 10,000 have been affected by winter-borne illnesses across Bangladesh, according to the latest bulletin from the state-run Directorate General of Health Services on Jan. 1.

About 6,000 patients have received treatment in hospitals and clinics including 948 patients for respiratory infections, mostly in northern and hilly districts, said Dr. Ayesha Akhtar, assistant director of the Health Emergency Operation Center and Control Room.

“Most patients have been affected by jaundice, inflammation of the eyes, skin diseases and fever. Our emergency medical team is ready at all times,” she told ucanews.

Bangladesh and neighboring India recorded the second lowest temperature in 119 years in recent weeks, according to Meteorological Department officials. The lowest temperature of 4.5 degree Celsius was recorded in Tetulia town of Panchagarh district on Dec. 29.   

Mamun Sheikh, 52, a poor villager from Rajshahi district, said the cold snap had crippled lives in rural areas.

“The temperature has increased in the past two days but the cold wave has wreaked havoc already. My three grandchildren have been suffering from acute respiratory infections but they are getting better now,” he told ucanews.

Catholic charity Caritas Bangladesh has extended a helping hand by offering blankets and warm clothes through regional offices.

Mamun Sheikh is one of hundreds of people who have received blankets and warm clothes from Caritas Rajshahi. “We have received two blankets from Caritas already but we need more,” he said.    

The arrival of winter was abrupt and the intensity of the cold is higher than in previous years, said Dr. Edward Pallab Rozario, head of health programs at Caritas Bangladesh.

“The cold snap has mostly affected poor people living on the streets and in the northern and hilly areas who are always vulnerable to extreme weather. Caritas has tried to help as many as possible by offering warm clothes and blankets. We also plan to assist those who need treatment,” Rozario told ucanews.

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