World: Pakistan: The Ravaging of Golden Bengal

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OVER the rivers and down the highways and along countless jungle paths, the population of East Pakistan continues to hemorrhage into India: an endless unorganized flow of refugees with a few tin kettles, cardboard boxes and ragged clothes piled on their heads, carrying their sick children and their old. They pad along barefooted, with the mud sucking at their heels in the wet parts. They are silent, except for a child whimpering now and then, but their faces tell the story. Many are sick and covered with sores. Others have cholera, and when they die by the roadside there is no one to bury them. The Hindus, when they can, put a hot coal in the mouths of their dead or singe the body in lieu of cremation. The dogs, the vultures and the crows do the rest. As the refugees pass the rotting corpses, some put pieces of cloth over their noses.

The column pushing into India never ends, day or night. It has been four months since civil war broke out between East and West Pakistan, and the refugees still pour in. No one can count them precisely, but Indian officials, by projecting camp registrations, calculate that they come at the rate of 50,000 a day. Last week the estimated total passed the 7,500,000 mark. Should widespread famine hit East Pakistan, as now seems likely, India fears that the number may double before the exodus ends.

Hundreds of thousands of these are still wandering about the countryside without food and shelter. Near the border, some have taken over schools to sleep in; others stay with villagers or sleep out in the fields and under the trees. Most are shepherded into refugee camps where they are given ration cards for food and housed in makeshift sheds of bamboo covered with thatched or plastic roofing. Though no one is actually starving in the camps, food is in short supply, particularly powdered milk and baby food.

No More Tears

Life has been made even more miserable for the refugees by the monsoon rains, that have turned many camps into muddy lagoons. Reports Dr. Mathis Bromberger, a German physician working at a camp outside Calcutta: "There were thousands of people standing out in the open here all night in the rain. Women with babies in their arms. They could not lie down because the water came up to their knees in places. There was not enough shelter, and in the morning there were always many sick and dying of pneumonia. We could not get our serious cholera cases to the hospital. And there was no one to take away the dead. They just lay around on the ground or in the water." High-pressure syringes have speeded vaccination and reduced the cholera threat, but camp health officials have already counted about 5,000 dead, and an estimated 35,000 have been stricken by the convulsive vomiting and diarrhea that accompany the disease. Now officials fear that pneumonia, diphtheria and tuberculosis will also begin to exact a toll among the weakened ref ugees. Says one doctor: "The people are not even crying any more."

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