Saturday, April 21, 2018 | ePaper

Deadly 'long-lost disease' rages in Rohingya camps

  • Print
AFP :
In a makeshift bamboo clinic, small children struggle to draw breath through surgical masks, victims of a forgotten but deadly disease that has torn through the teeming Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Diphtheria had been all but eradicated in Bangladesh until last year, when more than 650,000 Rohingya poured across the border fleeing a bloody military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.
Packed into an area meant for a much smaller number of refugees and with little sanitation or healthcare, the new arrivals provided fertile ground for the highly contagious respiratory disease to take hold.
It quickly spread through the camps, with the World Health Organization reporting more than 3,600 cases.
The outbreak has already claimed the lives of at least 30 refugees, mostly children, while a handful of Bangladeshis living near the camps have also contracted the disease. Carla Pla, head nurse at the specialist diphtheria unit run by medical charity MSF (Doctors Without Borders), said children were arriving with "severe" symptoms. "This is a very challenging situation,
because everyday there are coming more children, and the challenge to get the vaccine is also something that is very difficult," she told AFP at the unit.
Nearly 600 refugees have been referred there since it opened in December, putting enormous pressure on doctors also struggle to treat rampant malnutrition, water-borne disease and other diseases in the camps.
When AFP visited this week most of the patients were small children, some of them clearly struggling to breathe. Bangladesh authorities were prepared for other diseases and moved quickly to inoculate the new arrivals against cholera and measles to prevent a health disaster. But the emergence of diphtheria, which causes difficulty breathing and can lead to heart failure, paralysis and death if left untreated, caught aid workers off guard. "We were taken aback when tests confirmed diphtheria in the camps. It was a long-lost disease in our country," said Abdus Salam, the chief medical officer for Cox's Bazar district, where the camps are located.
"Immediately, we acquired vaccines from abroad for an emergency response."
In December, they launched a huge vaccination push. Nearly 320,000 children aged under 15 have now been inoculated and another 160,000 children are expected to receive the vaccine this month. High rates of vaccination mean diphtheria has become increasingly rare in much of the world, although Yemen is currently suffering an outbreak. But the Rohingya come from impoverished Rakhine state, where state-imposed restrictions have ensured abysmal living standards for the persecuted Muslim community, and many children are not vaccinated. Pla said it was challenging for staff treating a disease that "only existed in the textbooks for all these years", with many doctors seeing live cases for the first time in their careers. Mohammad Hossain assumed his son, now being treated in the MSF clinic, had the same minor throat infection affecting other Rohingya children in the refugee camp. "I thought it was tonsilitis. But the doctors said it was much more serious," Hossain told AFP, wearing a protective mask as he tended to the 11-year-old. The appearance of diphtheria, long forgotten in many parts of the world, has compounded the misery for close to one million displaced Rohingya Muslims living in extreme hardship near the border with Myanmar. Seven specialist diphtheria field clinics have been set up to treat the rising number of patients since the outbreak, said WHO's Southeast Asia emergency director Roderico Ofrin. Together the wards house 400 beds for patients, but a shortage of doctors has required medics to be flown in from Britain and elsewhere to help battle the outbreak.
Treatment involves administering an antitoxin and antibiotics. At the MSF ward, where Hossain's son Mohammad Rashed is making a slow recovery, medics wearing single-use scrubs work in tented-off wards treating patients. Everyone coming into contact with the tents, set away in an isolated clearing, must wear masks and wash their hands in chlorinated water. Preventing infected patients from coming into contact with the wider, largely unvaccinated population of Rohingya remains a priority, doctors said. Rohingya community leaders meanwhile are trying to spread awareness about this resurgent disease to offset a full-blown epidemic.

More News For this Category

59 BNP men held from meeting in Narail

UNB, Narail :Police arrested at least 59 leaders and activists of BNP including the party chairperson's advisor and divisional organising secretary while conducting a 'secret' meeting at its district

5-year old girl 'raped' in Faridpur hospital

Staff Reporter  :A five-year-old girl has been allegedly raped by a the director of the canteen of Faridpur Medical College and Hospital in district Sadar upazila.The victim has been

Democrats file lawsuit

BBC Online :The Democratic Party in the US is suing Russia, the Trump campaign and the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.Documents filed in

YouTube singer has tearful reunion after 40 years

YouTube singer has tearful reunion after 40 years

AFP  :An Indian man missing for 40 years has had an emotional reunion with his family after a YouTube video of him singing a popular Bollywood song went viral.Khomdram

Boy dies from stabbing wounds in city

bdnews24.com :A 15-year-old boy succumbed to his stabbing injuries while he was under treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on Friday.The boy has been identified as Afsar Uddin Shihab,

SWAC sets an excellent example

UNB, Dhaka :While autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is still an unacceptable matter for many, Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children (SWAC) has been working heart and soul for

2 UPDF women leaders freed after a month

bdnews24.com :Monty Chakma, general secretary of the United Peoples Democratic Front or UPDF's women chapter and Doyasona Chakma, general secretary of the Federation's Rangamati unit, were abducted from a

Man commits suicide by jumping under train

UNB, Pabna :A young man allegedly committed suicide jumping before a running train at Chatmohar Railway Station in Chatmohar upazila on Friday morning.The deceased was identified as Sirajul Islam,

A CNG cylinder laden truck collapses due to tyre burst incidentally saved from disaster occurred in front of the Secretariat in city on Friday.

A CNG cylinder laden truck collapses due to tyre burst incidentally saved from disaster occurred in front of the Secretariat in city on Friday.

.

Sohan Group MD arrested

risingbd.com :Police has arrested Sohan Group's Managing Director (MD) and former Managing Director of Asian TV Mizanur Rahman in a cheque fraud case.Police said, that he was arrested from