The World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to the international community to contribute generously to enable appropriate and timely health services for Rohingya refugees.
WHO has made the appeal as a grossly underfunded health sector grapples to meet the needs of 1.3 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, according to a press release of WHO.
This highly vulnerable population now faces grave risks to their lives and health in view of the coming rainy season, the press release added.
“This is one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent times. No single agency or the Government of Bangladesh alone can meet the massive health needs of such a large population group. The Rohingya population are settled in an area that is prone to cyclone, and a terrain that would be flooded as soon as rains begin,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, World Health Organization South-East Asia said at a meeting of partners here.
“The risk of outbreak of life threatening water and vector borne diseases under such conditions is huge,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
Coordinating the work of over a 100 partners on the ground along with the Ministry of Health, WHO has facilitated the contingency plan for the rainy season and coordinated a simulation around it, the press release adds.
The plan aims at continuity of health services during rains and floods to minimize the risk of disease and deaths among the affected population. All 207 health facilities in the area have been assessed for vulnerability during rains, following which nearly 25% of them are being relocated.
Another cholera and measles vaccination campaign is being planned in April as a preventive measure for the vulnerable population. Earlier, 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine were administered to the refugees and their host communities, in addition to two vaccination campaigns for measles and three for diphtheria which concluded earlier this week with WHO support.
WHO is prepositioning medicines, medical supplies and equipment for the rainy season.
“However, much of the health sector’s capacity to respond depends on availability of resources,” Dr Khetrapal Singh, who visited the Rohingya camps earlier in the week, said. The rainy season is almost here, the sooner the health sector gets the funds it needs, the better would be its ability to scale up services to quickly and adequately respond to health needs of the refugees.
Besides risks posed by floods and rain, the vulnerable population would need continued services for reproductive, maternal and child health, for communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as psychosocial support, the Regional Director said.
Earlier in Cox’s Bazar, Dr Khetrapal Singh visited the warehouse where WHO has prepositioned supplies. She observed diphtheria vaccination campaign, inaugurated a fixed immunization site where children were being administered routine immunization, and visited a primary health centre and a diphtheria treatment centre run by Samaritan's Purse.
WHO has appealed for US $16.5 million from partners to facilitate its continued support to the Rohingya response in 2018, which is part of the US $113.1 million being sought by all health partners together under the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya crisis.