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Burmese refugees suffer scabies in New Delhi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese refugees in New Delhi, India have been suffering from an outbreak of skin diseases since early this month, which free clinics catering to them blame on high humidity, poor access to clean water and inherent poverty.

wrwab-health-careAlso blaming pollution in the metropolis of more than 22 million people, the clinics said the asylum-seekers and refugees, men and women, had scabies rashes on their heads, hands and legs.

About 8,400 Burmese refugees including those of Chin, Arakanese, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups, live in New Delhi. About 3,700 were recognised by the United Nations refugee body, the UNHCR, and carry identification cards to that effect. The applications for around 4,500 asylum-seekers were being processed, according to a report released last month by the organisation. Many of them survive only with the aid of two free self-help health centres.

“They had raised lesions on their skin, which festered and produced pus. It is because of the weather conditions and the environment. The atmosphere is very humid and infectious”, Dr. Tint Swe, Yamonena, one of the free clinics, told Mizzima.

According to clinic records, 20 of 87 patients treated in the first two weeks of this month were suffering scabies. The doctor said he had treated a total of 30 skin patients in the period.

“The patients felt itchy and their sores were festering. Because of the rain, more patients have suffered skin diseases this month”, Kyawt Kyawt, a nurse from the Women’s Rights and Welfare Association of Burma (WRWAB) clinic, said. 

Most of the Burmese live in the suburban wards of Vikas Puri, Uttam Nagar, Asalatpur and Janak Puri, in New Delhi’s west.

The unhealthy environment has become one of the main problems the refugees face. Water distributed by the Indian government in their areas can only be used for washing and bathing. For cooking, they have to buy bottled water. Sometimes, they need to queue where there are water taps.

“The water distributed by the government can’t use for cooking. Sometimes, there is rust in the distributed water. At that time, we can’t use it even for taking a bath or washing”, Ahkhu, a Burmese refugee from Vikas Puri said.

Dengue is also a problem. Last year, 1,153 people in the city suffered from the potentially haemorraghic, mosquito-borne fever and three died.

Some Burmese patients were assumed to have suffered the dengue fever, but there was no medical equipment in the free clinics to confirm presence of the disease, Kyawt Kyawt said. So, all the free-clinic doctors could do was tell them to have a check-up in hospital, if they had enough money.

“We don’t have the resources to buy some medicines so we’ve had to tell patients to buy those medicines themselves,” she said. “We also advised them to be checked by a specialist, also if they have enough money.”  

After heavy rain in New Delhi from mid-July, 496 cases of dengue had been recorded, at a rate of at least 30 new cases a day, The Times of India newspaper reported.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 August 2010 21:48 )  

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