Coping with quackery in Dhaka

Dhaka,  Fri,  22 September 2017
Published : 15 Apr 2017, 19:59:35

Coping with quackery in Dhaka

Shihab Sarkar
People in the Dhaka metropolis are used to a lot of appalling spectacles; they range from the macabre, the repulsive, the tragic, to the purely funny. Lately, things belonging to the genre of the weird and incredible have also begun to be enacted. Defining weird occurrences requires one's sense of normalcy in the first place. A major step to keep oneself safe from contracting the hepatitis-B virus necessitates the person concerned to be vaccinated. The educated vulnerable and health-conscious people nowadays seize the available opportunity to remain safe from attacks by the nearly-killer hepatitis-B. The vaccination is complicated, requiring full completion of a course of doses. For this one has to visit a clinic. But these days, you may happen to pass by an open-air 'clinic' on a busy footpath with banners saying that hepatitis-B 'injections' are administered there.

The spectacle was found in broad daylight at a crowded intersection in old Dhaka. Many people with the knowledge of this hazardous disease had to pause a while, to absorb their shock on finding this dreadful arrangement of hepatitis-B vaccination.

To call the 'clinic' weird or appalling is understatement. To many people, the whole thing has veritably amounted to sheer audacity, accompanied by risks of great health hazards. Going back to incredulity, how a person, or a group, can muster the courage to open such a highly sensitive vaccination centre on a footpath defies reason. But they, and many like them, have long swarmed on the fast-growing Dhaka. Quackery is not strange to this city. In has been integral to Dhaka's urban scenario since long.

Due to the general pedestrians being mostly simple, and thus gullible, they normally walk into the traps set by the quacks. These elements work in gangs. They train people on how to entice passersby and foist their phony medicines and treatments on them. Not all passersby fall victim to these quacks. As is normally seen, it is the over-curious and those with one or another physical ailment who become target of the street-side phony doctors. Most of the clients approaching quacks are found to be having problems related to tooth, ear, gout, insomnia and even fevers like typhoid and dengue. Aphrodisiacs are sought-after 'medicines' with these quacks.

 Generally, few of the medicines available with these open-air, mobile clinics are free from health hazards. Cases of deaths after taking treatments from self-styled doctors are common news items in the newspapers. In spite of all this, scores of people are found thronging the canvassing points of the quacks. The riddle is not difficult to decipher. In order to attract vulnerable patients, the fake doctors use spiels which are filled with exaggeration of the diseases and wrong information. It is the assertive style of assuring clients of cures which prompts people to buy these hazard-laden medicines.

Thanks to an all-out drive against quackery in the country nearly a decade ago, the menace has subsided remarkably. The step was quite stringent, coupled with a ban on media advertisements and publicity of these treatments at public places. In the capital Dhaka and other large cities, quacks eventually became a forgotten chapter. But proving their tenacity and ubiquitous nature, quackery began thriving in small, obscure towns and village markets. The most alarming aspect of the long-dormant quackery is its reappearance in Dhaka under a new guise, which is mind-boggling.

If the present revival of the scourge evades the watch of the authorities, it may enter the cityscape with vengeance. While the earlier broad-daylight fraud was limited to curing minor diseases, the new quacks show their temerity by dealing with much-feared ailments. Maybe, days are not far when Dhaka pedestrians will be used to watching a quack perform minor surgeries at busy street corners. That will spell disastrous consequences for the public health sector.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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