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RISK OF "CATASTROPHIC" DISEASE OUTBREAK AMONG DISPLACED ROHINGYA

Poor access to clean drinking water and basic health services, coupled with frequent monsoon rains, has sparked growing concern of an outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera among Rohingyas who fled persecution and violence in Myanmar.

Thursday, 28 September 2017 - 3:56pm

Reducing the risk of an outbreak, which could spread rapidly through crowded camps and informal settlements, requires a rapid scale up of basic health services, alongside improved access to latrines, clean drinking water and basic hygiene items, Save the Children is warning.

According to IOM and government figures from ISCG the number of new arrivals is now 480,000. More than 4,500 newly arrived Rohingya in the Bangladesh district of Cox’s Bazar have already been treated for diarrhea and many others for dehydration, while the World Health Organisation this week warned of a “very high” risk of a cholera outbreak.

There are also currently more than 14,000 children under the age of 5 with severe acute malnutrition, according to reports by the Inter Sector Coordination Group led by the IOM. Children with most extreme levels of malnutrition are at least six times more likely to die from diarrheal disease like cholera.

Dr Unni Krishnan, Director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, said:

“Right now we’re seeing the absolute perfect breeding ground for a major health crisis. There are tens of thousands of people still sleeping out in the open or under makeshift shelters, there is dirty, contaminated water everywhere, and poor nutrition and hygiene levels. Most have also witnessed some level of violence as well as a frightening escape from their homes and are in need of emotional care and support.

“While Bangladeshi authorities and aid agencies are working around the clock to meet the needs, the speed and scale of the influx of Rohingya and the ongoing rains have meant we’re playing catch up.”

Save the Children is preparing to dispatch up to nine health teams in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where more than 430,000 Rohingya have fled to in just over a month.

The aid agency’s Emergency Health Unit team, which deploys to the frontline of major emergencies around the world, has been carrying out a rapid health assessment with newly arrived Rohingya while working in close collaboration with local authorities, the Ministry of Health and relief agencies.

Save the Children has also been speeding up its distributions, including basic hygiene items like soaps, nappies and buckets to help people keep clean, as well as handing out food, water purification tablets, basic kitchen utensils and tarpaulins for shelter, but needs remain great.

Dr Krishnan added: 

“Any outbreak of disease in these fragile conditions, where people are staying in cramped spaces close to one another, could spread quickly and would be potentially catastrophic. 

“We’re extremely concerned about the health of children, particularly those under five years of age who are still in their earliest stages of development, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers. We will continue collaborating with the government in our work to reach these extremely vulnerable groups.”

The mass displacement follows an alarming escalation of violence since August 25 in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, where there have been disturbing reports of homes being burned and hundreds of people, including children, being killed.

ENDS

For more information or to arrange interviews with spokespeople, please contact r.villar@savethechildren.org.uk or +442070126841

Link to new images here: https://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=50487&k=3c06c88713

NOTES TO EDITORS

• Malnourished children are 6.3x (Severe Acute Malnutrition) and 2.9x (Moderate Acute Malnutrition) more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases than well-nourished children. See here for more information.

• Save the Children has been supporting the long-term needs of displaced Rohingya families in and around Cox’s Bazar prior to the outbreak of violence on August 25. The aid agency is now scaling up its relief work, and has distributed hundreds of shelter kits, set up ‘child friendly spaces’ to support children’s emotional wellbeing and provide a safe space to play, and is running child protection services and providing support to unaccompanied children. It is working to expand these operations significantly.

• In Rakhine State, Myanmar, Save the Children provides assistance to both Rohingya living in camps for internally placed people in Sittwe and in Pauktaw, and for Rakhine communities in Pauktaw. Save the Children does not have access to the areas of northern Rakhine State which are affected by conflict.

Donate to Save the Children's Rohingya Appeal here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/rohingya-crisis-appeal