New treatment and isolation facilities in Cox’s Bazar
As a diphtheria outbreak hits one of the world’s largest refugee settlements, medical experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN migration agency, IOM, have joined forces to save lives and stop the spread of the disease.
With an estimated 867 000 Rohingya refugees now living in cramped, desperate conditions in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, ensuring people get the care they need and bringing the disease under control are major challenges.
Three newly-built specialist isolation wards at established IOM medical centres, will now provide inpatient care for a total of 120 patients a night, allowing them to receive the expert treatment they need while safeguarding others from potential infection.
Medicines, beds and other equipment are being provided by WHO to support treatment at the new facilities, while a major vaccination programme headed by the Government of Bangladesh with support from health partners is carried out across the camps.
Children under 15 have accounted for three quarters of suspected cases of the disease, which can cause such severe throat swelling that patients are unable to breathe or swallow.
As the new wards receive their first patients, specially trained IOM teams, following WHO guidelines on contact tracing, will help track down those who have come in contact with suspected infected individuals and ensure they get medicines that prevent them becoming ill.
Medical experts from across the globe are now flying in to help support local and international medical staff already on the ground. WHO is conducting Diphtheria Case Management Training for medical staff treating patients in the Rohingya Refugee Camps.
Since 2013 IOM has been providing vital medical treatment to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. But since an influx of 655 000 people fleeing violence in Myanmar began in late August, medical staff and facilities have been stretched beyond their limits - even before diphtheria struck. As one of its core emergency response strategies in Cox’s Bazar, WHO remains committed in supporting the delivery of health services.
WHO and IOM are working are working within the health sector to ensure provision of medical services to the population.
Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a potent toxin produced by certain strains of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunization.