There are fears coronavirus deaths will take another ominous lurch upwards in Bangladesh as the coronavirus-ravaged country deals with devastating floods.
Bangladesh has recorded 3,035 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 232,194 officials cases, but the real numbers are thought to be much higher.
Widespread flooding triggered by monsoons rain is worsening in Bangladesh, officials say, as the rising waters has affected more than 4.8 million people.
The country's Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) reported that the situation may worsen further as major rivers in the central districts around Dhaka are set to rise in the next couple of days.
After starting in late June, the flooding left more than 1 million people marooned at their homes and at least 41 people, including 31 children, dead, Disaster Management Ministry spokesperson Tasmin Ara Azmiri said. Drowning caused most of the deaths, she added.
The flooding has prompting many people to move to shelters, according to the disaster management department, where it’s feared the virus could more easily rip through communities.
South Asia experiences flooding almost every year during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September, but this year there are major concerns the weather event will further exacerbate the questionable handling of the pandemic in the country.
Without managing to successfully suppress the virus, Bangladesh is still in the midst of its first wave as new cases have begun to stabilise but have not been driven down.
Meanwhile COVID-19 deaths have followed a similar trajectory with deaths simply plateauing, but not falling for the past six weeks.
While parts of the country deal with the flooding, pictures this week showed crowded markets where social distancing is all but impossible to maintain.
Bangladesh relaxed restrictions at the start of June after locking the country down in March but the pandemic has raised difficult issues about food insecurity for many of the country’s urban poor.
Thousands of sex workers struggling to survive
Meanwhile, the shutdown impacted millions of workers from the country’s massive textile industry to sex workers.
Bangladesh is home to about 100,000 sex workers and charities estimate that seven out of 10 are struggling to survive.
Although sex work is legal in Bangladesh, the vast majority operate outside registered brothels, on the streets or in private residences, according to the United Nations, meaning they have little protection from abusers.
KSM Tarique, deputy chief executive of the charity Lighthouse, which helps sex workers access healthcare and education for their children, said most were now having to skip meals and complaints of violence or harassment had surged.
“In January and February, we used to get seven to 10 complaints per week. But in certain weeks in May we got more than 200 complaints from workers,” KSM Tarique told Reuters.
“This happened because there were lockdowns in place and street-based sex workers who were hungry and went out to look for work were either verbally harassed or beaten during that period by different groups.”
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