Together for health:
WHO, partners implement 900 000 dose oral cholera vaccination campaign in Cox’s Bazar
On 10 October the first of 900 000 doses of oral cholera vaccine were delivered to newly arrived and host communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh as part of a massive campaign to protect 650 000 people from the deadly diarrheal disease.
As the sun rose across 12 makeshift settlements and camps – where more than half a million people have arrived since August – yellow flags were raised to mark where mobile teams would administer the life-saving vaccine. From mid-morning on, men, women and children began queuing as social mobilizers broadcast the vaccine’s importance amid ongoing challenges with access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Now in its third day, the campaign is making steady progress.
The campaign is led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and supported by multiple partners, including WHO, UNICEF, IOM and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The first round will cover 650 000 people aged one year and older. The second round, which commences on 31 October, will target 250 000 children between one and five years with an additional dose of the vaccine for added protection.
Volunteers like Ismat Ara are crucial to the campaign’s success. Her reason for getting involved is simple. “I feel for these people,” she says. "I need to help them.”
The vaccine arrived in Bangladesh on 7 October, just over a week after being released from the global stockpile of the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision (ICG), which brings together WHO, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).
The vaccination campaign supplements other preventive measures, such as increased access to safe water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene. To help improve hygiene, a bar of soap is handed out after each vaccination.
Gentian violet marks the little finger of each person vaccinated. The mark is worn with pride across the settlements and camps.
At the campaign’s launch, Deputy Head of the WHO office in Bangladesh, Dr Edwin Salvadore spoke of the Health Sector’s solidarity and resolve to protect and promote health in what is an immensely challenging scenario. “This massive campaign is the sum of all of our efforts, and an expression of our joint commitment to meeting the many health needs of this vulnerable population. When we are together for health, we can achieve anything.”