Monday, October 30, 2006

For those of you who have heard about the riots here in Bangladesh, I am safe housebound until further notice. Basically there is a lot of political instability as an interim government takes over months before the sceduled elections next year. This is meant to be a neutral party but the current ruling party placed their own president in charge.
Good timing to be housebound as I feel like shit. I think I have dengue fever, just waiting on some tests.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Yesterday Ramadan officially ended. No more fasting for my Muslim friends. Fasting had been going on for about 3/4 weeks. No food between sunrise and sunset, no water, no smoking, but a lot of spitting. At around 3pm everyday street stalls began to sell IFTAR like the stall one of our kids ran above. Iftar are yummy light snacks like dates, chickpeas, deep fried eggplant, deep fried potato balls, puffed rice and deep fried sugar pastries that prepare the body from fasting. At roughly 5:30pm or whenever the prayer to call was heard everyone quickly ate their snacks and headed home for a late dinner.

Today was the special EID day, the Muslim’s version of xmas EID-ul-Fitr. I went to my friend Laboni’s house for lunch. This consisted of pullao (flavoured rice), kitchuri (flavoured rice), chicken, beef curry, vegetables, salad and three types of rice and wheat deserts. I also went to visit some of the kids at the centres. The girls were very proud of their new outfits. I think they look pretty cute. The boys were equally found of their new shirts. Everyone in Bangladesh gets a new outfit for EID.

Right now I have one week of holidays. Most of Dhaka has disappeared, except the beggars who seem to have doubled, especially near mosques where they target men who have just prayed to Allah.

My flatmate and I are stuck at home writing our last papers of the year for uni. I have just made a bunch of new friends to keep me company though. One of the girls discovered that I have nits….

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spotlight on TB

When Polly was first diagnosed with TB I completed one of my uni assignments on a comparison between Australia and Bangladesh TB rates. Here's some interesting info for you.

  • 2 billion people worldwide are infected with TB – one third of the world.
  • 9 million people worldwide are diagnosed with active TB every year.
  • 2 million people worldwide die every year from TB related deaths, or 5000 everyday.
  • Over 90% of cases are reported in the developing world.
  • Bangladesh has the 6th highest prevalence rate, approx 600,000 cases, popn = 140 million. Prevalence rate = 435/100,000. Not all cases are detected and reported.
  • Australia’s rate is 100 times lower. Approx 1,000 cases, popn= 22 million which is roughly 5.8/100,000.
  • Certain subgroups of Australians carry the burden of this disease, mainly those born overseas and indigenous Australians.
  • Certain subgroups of Bangladeshis carry the burden: those living in extreme poverty with poor housing conditions and malnutrition.
  • Death or mortality rate of Bangladesh: 51/100,000 per year. Australia = 0.6/100,000 per year.
  • As this is an airborne infectious disease it is prevented by reducing active cases of TB which in turn reduce/stop the transmission of the disease. Education and screening programs are extremely important.
  • Drugs that treat TB urgently need to be updated, especially for the treatment of multidrug resitant strains. The drugs haven’t changed much since the 1960’s. Treatment lasts for 6 months. 6 horse like tablets everyday, without fail. Lack of money into research has been blamed on the fact that the majority of the world that is dying and suffering from TB is the developing world, and they wouldn’t be able to afford the new more expensive drugs. Maybe this will change with the increase in HIV/TB related deaths although again HIV seems to be disproportionately be effecting the developing world.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Goodbye Polly

Polly passed away on the 5th October. Yesterday we held a milat at the Drop In Centre where she used to stay. In Islam this is a ceremony to say prayers for the person who has just passed.

For those of you who bought the calendar before I left for Bangladesh, Polly was one of the six kids who was involved in the VISIBLE photo project for street children. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with TB- tuberculosis just over 2 months ago. I was with her when she had her x-ray. TB doesn’t always kill but when it is caught late and when poverty prevails, it often does. Polly had to take 10 large tablets everyday for 6 months. When I returned from holidays she had deteriorated. We rushed her to hospital but when I went to visit her the next day I found an empty bed....and an empty heart.

A big thanks to Melissa who coordinated the VISIBLE project that Polly participated in. Polly's last year was made much richer from the experience and through Polly's photos a part of Polly is with us all. You can check out the photos that Polly has taken including her "happiness" photo below by clicking here. On the website you can also read her comments about the photos she took which display how kind, loving and selfless she was.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Farewell Shobuj
While I was away in India on the 15th September one of the boys from one of the centres died. His name was Shobuj and he was a beautiful 12 year old boy. We think he died from meningitis as he died suddenly from a high fever. We can’t even tell his parents as they live in another city in Bangladesh and we don’t have the address. Thanks Shobuj for all your beautiful smiles and games of carom
(a combination of air hockey/pool). We all miss you already.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ten Armed Lady Festival (Durja Puja)
I went to my Hindu friend Sujoy’s village for the Durja Puja festival. This is basically Christmas time for the Hindus. They give thanks to Durja the goddess with ten arms.
According to a legend, a demon vanquished the Hindu gods and their king. Durga, equipped with lethal weapons in each of her ten arms, rode a ferocious lion, and killed the demon.

Mirzapur had about 50 temporary temples dedicated to Purja. Thousands of people came to the village to walk from temple to temple to admire and pray to the Durja statues. The last day was definitely the highlight. Everyone dressed in their best shari or punjabi and danced the night away. I won 100 taka for my dancing efforts. I danced all night long with the kids, the village elder, my bangla aunty, some young men, and the local dwarf. After the dancing ended the statues were submerged and left to decompose in the local river.

One of the many Durja Puja temporary temples.
Grandma, baby Pui and I on the big night.
A young woman, Rupa being dragged to the dancefloor!
The river to get to the village and also where Durja is thrown into the water every year.