Preventive, contingency measures reinforced as monsoon sets in Cox’s Bazar
Cox’s Bazar, 1 June 2018: With rains starting to intermittently flood the Rohingya refugee camps, the World Health Organization and other health sector partners are further strengthening preventive and contingency measures to minimize the health impact of monsoons for the nearly 1.3 million vulnerable populations in Cox’s Bazar.
“WHO and health sector partners are working with Bangladesh government to maintain life-saving primary and secondary health services for Rohingya refugees and their host communities in the ongoing rainy season. Heavy rains, floods and cyclone are expected to further deteriorate the already suboptimal water and sanitation conditions in the overcrowded refugee camps, increasing the risk of infectious disease such as acute watery diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis, dengue fever and malaria, among others,” Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh, said.
As a preventive measure, a massive cholera vaccination campaign was conducted in May targeting one million people – the refugees, their host communities and people residing in close vicinity to the camps. This was the second massive cholera vaccination campaign for the Rohingyas, with 900 000 doses administered in November-December last year.
As part of the contingency measures, 18 diarrhea treatment centers (DTC) with a total bed capacity of 522, and 41 oral rehydration points (ORPs), have been planned across the various camps.
Sixteen mobile medical teams (MMTs) have been constituted, trained and kept ready for immediate deployment in the event of outbreak of infectious diseases, floods and landslide. Each MMT constitutes of a doctor, paramedic/nurse, midwife, dispenser, and protection officer, and has been trained to deliver immediate life-saving first line of services, and facilitate referrals.
WHO has prepositioned 75 metric tons of cholera treatment supplies. WHO’s stockpile for monsoons also includes 20 basic Inter-Agency Emergency Health Kits (IEHKs) with drugs, medical devices and equipment to meet the health needs of 200 000 people for three months. All medical equipment and supplies have been stocked-up at locations identified as secure during the mapping of health facilities. The supplies are for use by health sector partners and MMTs.
The health sector continues monitor health facilities that need to be decommissioned or upgraded.
“The Government of Bangladesh values the support of all health partners in strengthening the health care delivery system, which is critical to save lives in the current settings, and also if the situation worsens,” says Professor Dr. Abdus Salam, Civil Surgeon, Cox’s Bazar.
To reduce the risk of an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea, WHO has been supporting testing of quality of drinking water. WHO continues to provide water filters to health facilities, ORPs close to contaminated water source and family filters, prioritizing pregnant women.
As part of contingency planning, camp-level focal points have been identified and trained earlier on emergency response plans. The list of secondary health facilities, those expected to be operational 24X7, isolation facilities and ambulances is being reviewed and updated periodically.
Earlier in the week, WHO organized a refresher training for health sector partners on early warning, alert and reporting system (EWARS which is a WHO-led surveillance system to identify disease outbreaks), with the focus on notification of cases of acute watery diarrhea and procedure for diarrheal treatment centers.
“The ongoing phase is critical, as the health risks are huge in the ongoing rainy season, and the grossly underfunded health sector, including WHO, is struggling to ensure continuity of services to save lives of this highly vulnerable population,” the WHO Representative said.