Doctors have blamed the Tripura community's ignorance and faith in witch doctors for the death of nine children from an unidentified disease at a remote village in Sitakunda, Chittagong.
Physicians said the community was reluctant to seek modern medical treatment, even after traditional rituals failed to cure their ailing children.
Fifty-three other infected children from the village are being treated at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Disease (BITID) and the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
Chittagong Civil Surgeon Dr Azizur Rahman Siddiqui said they took the infected children by force from their homes and hospitalised them, as the villagers were reluctant to accept the latest medical treatments.
“They do not have any idea about modern medical treatments. More children would have died if we had not intervened,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Bimal Tripura, who has lost his two-year-old son, said they had sought a witch doctor's help when his child fell sick.
“We took every available option, but did not realise the severity of the disease,” he said. “I thought my son would recover in a few days.”
A local doctor informed BITID Assistant Professor Dr Mamunur Rashid about the deaths.
He immediately notified concerned authorities about the outbreak of the life-threatening ailment.
Locals initially refused to cooperate when a BITID medical team visited the area to learn more about the disease.
Rashid said “They stayed indoors and told us to leave immediately, refusing medical treatment. It took them around 30 minutes to come out after the BITID team convinced them."
Sixty-four families live in the remote Tripura Para at Sonaichari in Baro Awlia. Jhum or shifting cultivation and working in orchards are the main sources of their income.
In the remote area, the locals depend on brooks for drinking water. Most of them are uneducated.
“They see witch doctors when they fall sick. If the situation worsens, they visit homeopaths,” said Rashid.
He said vaccinations are unheard of in the area and not a single child has been vaccinated after birth.
“The disease broke out about two weeks ago. Their ignorance and unawareness made matters worse,” Rashid said. “The loss of nine lives could have been averted if the children were hospitalised.”