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Updated On: Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Development Issues

WHO Warns of Cholera Danger Among Rohingya

Content by: South-South News

10 May 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — Renewed efforts are under way in Bangladesh to protect nearly one million Myanmar refugees from cholera, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that “we’re not out of the woods yet”.

Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO’s Director of Emergency Operations issued the warning in Geneva on May 8, citing risks from other diseases, natural hazards and a serious funding shortage.

Brennan said, “We’re not out of the woods yet. There are still many risks to the health and well-being of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The majority are still housed in overcrowded, somewhat unsanitary camps and now we are looking down the barrel of the monsoon season with the inherent risk of flooding, landslides, as well as the cyclone season.”

The refugee crisis started August last year when more than 670,000 people fled a military campaign in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, seeking shelter in neighboring Bangladesh.

There are now nearly 900,000 displaced individuals living in a dozen camps in and around Cox’s Bazar, and Brennan said it was a “major achievement” that mortality rates had remained low.

The cholera vaccination campaign now under way is a vital follow-up to an earlier inoculation drive in October and November last year.

Appealing to the international community for assistance, Dr. Brennan highlighted the increased risk of disease linked to overcrowding in Bangladesh’s “mega camps” and from the ongoing monsoon season.

Cholera is “only one health concern among a number of priorities”, the WHO official said, stressing the need to focus on water and sanitation facilities as the most effective guarantee against other water-borne diseases.

Brennan added “so I do believe the international community has a collective responsibility not only to assist people, who through no fault of their own, have suffered tremendously, but also to support the Bangladeshi communities in their very generous efforts to support some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.”

The senior WHO medic also cited serious funding shortages which risked undermining efforts to protect already vulnerable communities who had fled Myanmar with nothing.

Some $950 million is needed to help the refugees, Brennan said, but only around 16 per cent of this amount has been provided. Resources are even scantier for healthcare, with only 6.3 per cent of funding needs met.

As people continue to arrive in Bangladesh, WHO remains concerned about health infrastructure in Rakhine State, where Brennan said that any return of Rohingya refugees would have to be “safe, voluntary and dignified”.

He added that the UN health agency has access to four communities in Rakhine - where it carries out disease surveillance, provides training, runs mobile clinics and delivers medical supplies – and that WHO was willing to help expand services there.


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