Rats: Plague threat looms in Bangladesh

Published on 24 February 2009

Bangladesh's remote Chittagong Hill Tracts region faces a serious risk of prolonged famine and bubonic plague unless a ballooning rat population is brought under control, experts say. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing three million dollars of emergency food supplies to some 120,000 people in the southeastern tribal area bordering India and Myanmar last May, after the rat population exploded. The rats -- some weighing as much as 1.5 kilogrammes (3.3 pounds) -- feed on bamboo forests in the hilly region. Dhaka University zoology professor Nurjahan Sarker recently visited the hill tracts and sounded the alarm over the "devastating" impact of the year-long rat plague. "The threats of a famine-fuelled conflict are real as the rats are destroying everything in the hills," she said.

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Agence France Presse (AFP)