DHAKA: Health officials have warned of a winter sickness crisis among Rohingya refugees living in makeshift tents at camps in Bangladesh.
The cold weather currently gripping the country has increased the suffering for tens of thousands of the ethnic group’s people trapped in camps at Cox’s Bazar, with children and the elderly worst affected.
“As winter is getting heavier on the refugees in the camps, we have noticed an increase of pneumonia and diarrhea patients, and children are the most vulnerable of these cases,” Dr. Abdul Matin, civil surgeon in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.
“We are on alert to provide the best treatment to the refugees. Some of our hospitals and health centers are providing round-the-clock services for them.”
Matin, the highest-ranking health sector governmental official in the district, said doctors and medical officers at the state-run Ukhia General Hospital were on standby to provide maximum health care support to Rohingya patients.
To help prevent cholera from spreading among refugees, the Bangladesh government, with assistance from UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund), was running an oral cholera vaccination program in 34 camps, with phase one due to end on Dec. 31, he added.
Matin pointed out that to protect children from pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, the government was also running an immunization program against acute respiratory infections.
“My six-year-old daughter has been suffering from diarrhea for the past three days. She can’t eat anything now, and whatever she eats or drinks she can’t hold for long, and vomits,” Amena Khatun, 38, a refugee queuing with her daughter at a health center in the Kutupalang camp, told Arab News.
Another Rohingya woman, Saleha Begum, 24, was waiting see a doctor with her three-year-old son at a center run by the BRAC health organization. “Little Arman (her son) hasn’t slept for the past two nights. He is suffering from serious respiratory problems. I don’t know what happened to him,” she said.
To combat the ongoing cold spell, health bodies have been running 129 medical posts at Cox’s Bazar refugee camps and 32 primary health care centers providing 24/7 services, said Louise Donovan, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) spokeswoman at Cox’s Bazar.
“UNHCR and partners have distributed winter assistance kits, which include blankets and sleeping mats, to over 86,000 households in order to help the refugees keep warm during the harsh weather. Further distributions are ongoing,” she added.
Bangladesh currently hosts more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled from Rakhine State in Myanmar following a military crackdown in August 2017.
According to UNICEF, more than half of the Rohingya population at Cox’s Bazar is under 18 years old.