Abul Kalam sits cross-legged on the floor of his tiny mud hut and whispers prayers into a small plastic bottle filled with water, creating what he says is a potion that will cure stomach cramps.

“I got these powers in my dreams,” he says. “People come to me because I heal them.”

In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya faith healer Abul Kalam, 60, prays at a makeshift mosque in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya faith healer Abul Kalam, 60, prays at a makeshift mosque in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Kalam is a boidu, or faith healer, and for decades has been treating fellow Rohingya Muslims, first in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state and now in a squalid camp in Bangladesh, where 700,000 Rohingya took refuge last year after escaping a campaign of government violence at home.

Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.

In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya spiritual healer Abul Kalam, 60, right, recites verses from the holy Quran in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya spiritual healer Abul Kalam, 60, right, recites verses from the holy Quran in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Access to medical care has changed for the better in Bangladesh, where thousands of aid workers offer Rohingya everything from vaccinations to psychological support.

Doctors Without Borders, which runs four inpatient hospitals and a dozen medical centers in the area, says it has provided more than 800,000 outpatient consultations and admitted more than 15,000 patients since August 2017.

In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya faith healer Abul Kalam performs ablution before offering prayers at a makeshift mosque in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya faith healer Abul Kalam performs ablution before offering prayers at a makeshift mosque in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers.

Kalam, a 60-year-old who arrived in Bangladesh in 2012 in an earlier exodus of Rohingya, says he receives more than five clients each day.

In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Rohingya woman Ali Nesa, tends to her sick daughter inside their makeshift shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Rohingya woman Ali Nesa, tends to her sick daughter inside their makeshift shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“People come to me because they benefit from my power,” he says. “That’s why they keep coming back.”

Myanmar officials have said they expect the repatriation of Rohingya to start this week, a move criticized by rights groups who say it is not yet safe for them to return.

In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, an elderly Rohingya refugee Noor Aisha Khatun, who used to visit spiritual healers, sits inside the family shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, an elderly Rohingya refugee Noor Aisha Khatun, who used to visit spiritual healers, sits inside the family shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Anita Saha, a clinical psychologist who has worked in the camps since August 2017, says Rohingya refugees’ dependence on faith healers stems from a lack of exposure to doctors and a suspicion of scientific medicine.

She says many refugees mistakenly believe they will lose their Islamic faith and be converted to Christianity if they take vaccinations for diseases like cholera and diphtheria. And in the case of mental illness, she says, many believe it is a reflection of evil forces and is best countered by a faith healer invoking prayer.

In this photograph taken Aug. 27, 2018, a Rohingya man looks at medicines being sold on the roadside in Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 27, 2018, a Rohingya man looks at medicines being sold on the roadside in Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“They don’t have any doctors to prescribe psychotropic drugs. So, they believe in the boidus to overcome their problem,” Saha says.

She says beliefs in the camps are slowly changing.

In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Bangladeshi clinical psychologist Anita Saha interacts with Rohingya refugees as part of an awareness programme in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Saha, who has worked in the camps since August 2017, said the Rohingya refugees' dependence on faith healers stems from a lack of exposure to doctors and a suspicion of scientific medicine, though access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Bangladeshi clinical psychologist Anita Saha interacts with Rohingya refugees as part of an awareness programme in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Saha, who has worked in the camps since August 2017, said the Rohingya refugees’ dependence on faith healers stems from a lack of exposure to doctors and a suspicion of scientific medicine, though access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Ali Nesa has never known what’s wrong with her teenage daughter, who spends her days in the refugee camp lying on the floor of her family’s thatch hut, unable to talk, walk or eat on her own.

Nesa says her daughter has been this way since she was 3, when she had epileptic fits for nearly two weeks straight.

In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya refugees wait at a U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) facility to receive food supplements for their children in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, Rohingya refugees wait at a U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) facility to receive food supplements for their children in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“I don’t know if her disease is due to an evil spirit or because of difficulty in breathing,” Nesa says. “If this is because of an evil spirit, then only a boidu can treat her. If it is a breathing problem, then a doctor may be able to help her.”

Nesa says none of the many boidus she has visited has been able to help her daughter and she is losing her faith in them. She’s now interested in seeking medical help.

In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Rohingya woman waits for the shopkeeper to show up at a makeshift pharmacy in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, a Rohingya woman waits for the shopkeeper to show up at a makeshift pharmacy in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Climate extremes, harsh land and unsanitary conditions make the camps a breeding ground for diseases and mental stress.

That means there’s plenty of work for doctors. It also means there’s plenty of business for faith healers like Kalam, who says he’s doing Allah’s bidding and isn’t bothered by people who don’t believe in his powers.

In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, a Rohingya man suffering from jaundice is seen in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 24, 2018, a Rohingya man suffering from jaundice is seen in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Faith healers have long been sought out in Rohingya society to treat physical and mental ailments. Their trade has thrived in part because of traditional beliefs and in part because Rohingya have lacked access to modern medical care in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“I can’t be worried by what people have to say,” he says.

“Maybe the doctor will say what does a boidu know? I don’t want to answer them. I don’t need to fight them.”

In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, sewer water flows in the back as Rohingya refugees cross a makeshift bamboo bridge at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photograph taken Aug. 28, 2018, sewer water flows in the back as Rohingya refugees cross a makeshift bamboo bridge at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Access to medical care has changed for the better in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, yet many Rohingya still seek out their faith healers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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Source: The Associated Press

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