The poor families seek assistance from the government and the well-off members of society
Thirty-year-old Minara Parvin is the eldest among five sisters. She was born alright but her fate turned back when she was just eight months old.
Her hands and legs started to become thinner and weaker. Her father Ibrahim became worried at her sudden change and started taking her to doctors and herbal medicine practitioners.
He spent a lion's share of his income on her treatment but saw no improvement.
Ten years following the birth of Minara, Ibrahim and his wife Shamsunnahar from Chourangipara of Radhakanai village in Fulbaria upazila under Mymensingh district were blessed with their third daughter and named her Beauty.
Five years later, their fourth daughter Taposhi was born to them.
Ibrahim's fifth daughter Shabnoor is now 11 years old. All the four girls have met the same fate - physical imparity. They have lost the mobility of their hands and legs. Now, they have to depend on someone else for their movement.
Only the second among the five siblings, Farida Yasmin is with a normal health. She has got married and lives in her in-laws' house.
A day-labourer, Ibrahim receives some allowance from the government for his daughters. He bears the family expenses in much hardship.
While on visit to Ibrahim's house, The Business Standard found all four physically challenged sisters sitting in the yard of their small and shabby house.
They spend their whole day on the veranda of their house. All of their chores are done by their parents.
Of them, the eldest sister Minara can speak but the other three sisters cannot even speak properly.
When anybody talks to Minara, the other three sisters give an empty look.
"Our parents take care of us but now they have grown old and weaker. We cannot imagine what will happen to us when they will die," said Minara with tears in her eyes. Along with her, the other three sisters also wiped their tears.
In a tear-choked voice Beauty said, "Our days seem very long as we spend our days sitting on the veranda. We wait for night to fall and then again wait for morning. We are the unhappiest persons in this world. We somehow pass the days half-fed."
Their mother Shamsunnahar said all they have is an eight decimal land.
Among their five daughters, four are physically challenged. Only second daughter Farida Yasmin is healthy and is married. She lives with her husband.
Shamsunnahar cannot go out for work leaving the daughters home. They have to depend on Ibrahim's earning and government allowance for their livelihood.
Ibrahim said his wife is also mentally challenged. So, he has to do all the household chores. He has to fetch water from far as there is no tube-well in his house.
"I am worried about the future of my daughters. What will happen to them when my wife and I will die. Who will look after them? My stress would have been reduced if the government would make a permanent arrangement for my daughters."
"All the four girls were born fit. But their hands and legs started becoming thinner and weaker when they reached the age of seven or eight months," said Ibrahim's neighbour Ayub Ali.
He cannot help the poor family as he is also surviving with much struggles.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Fulbaria upazila Ashraf Siddique said, "It is very sad that Ibrahim's four daughters are physically challenged. They enjoy ration card facilities. We will enquire about how they can be given more assistance."
Another man Barek from Sherpur village in Nandail upazila of the district has the same fate like Ibrahim.
The 60-year-old man lives with his physically challenged wife and three sons in a small shanty.
A farm labourer, Abdul Barek was happy with his wife, three sons and two daughters despite living in poverty. But misfortune shattered their happiness as his wife and three sons suddenly got affected with an unknown disease and eventually have eventually lost the power to move their hands and legs.
His two daughters are normal and married. Barek finds it extremely difficult to support his family with the government allowances and his earnings from working at other's households.
Barek said his wife Sahura Begum suddenly fell ill with fever about 15 to 16 years back.
But she did not recover from it and her condition started to worsen. Sahura became weak with the unknown disease.
As he lives in a small village, he could not take her to a good doctor. Village doctors and herbal medicine practitioners treated her. Her fever dropped in about 10 days but she remained very weak. Gradually her whole body was numb.
Now, Sahura crawls with much hardship. She cannot speak properly. She has also lost her hearing ability. Barek is at a loss now.
After one year of Sahura's paralysis, Barek's eldest son Abul Kalam, 38, was also affected by fever. He also became paralysed.
In four years, his second son Rabiul, 35, and the youngest son Ratan Miah, 30, were also affected by unknown disease and became paralysed.
Barek said, though four of his family members are physically challenged, only one got ration card.
Abul Kalam, Barek's eldest son, said, they have become burden on his father.
He also said if his father dies, they will plunge into a dire situation.
Another son Ratan Miah said they are unaware of the disease they are suffering from. He said they want to live.
Ratan said his family seeks assistance from the government and the well-off members of the society for their treatment so that they can return to normal life.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Nandail upazila Muhammad Abdur Rahim Sujon said, "I am new in this upazila. I was not aware of their situation. I will visit the house and provide them with assistance as much as we could do."