The government of Bangladesh launched a vaccination program for Rohingya children living in refugee camps near the Myanmar border at risk of contracting diphtheria and other preventable diseases.
The vaccination campaign, supported by the World Health Organization, the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and United Nations children’s fund UNICEF launched the campaign on Tuesday for Rohingya children between 6 weeks and 6 years old living in 12 camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“Diphtheria usually appears among vulnerable populations that have not received routine vaccinations, such as the Rohingyas. The outbreak shows a steep rise in cases, an indicator of the extreme vulnerability of children in the Rohingya camps and settlements. This calls for immediate action to protect them from this killer disease. Vaccination provides effective prevention,” UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder said.
The program aims to cover 255,000 children in the Ukhiya and Teknaf areas of Cox’s Bazar.
WHO and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) recently warned that there are 722 probable cases of diphtheria, a potentially fatal bacterial respiratory infection that is highly contagious, especially among people with poor hygiene or who live in crowded conditions. Nine people are said to have died in the Rohingya refugee camps between November 12 and December 10.
In addition to diphtheria, the Rohingya children are being vaccinated against pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus Influenzae, and hepatitis B as well as polio, WHO said.
Next week, Rohingya children aged 7 to 15 years will receive tetanus diphtheria vaccines. The Serum Institute of India donated 300,000 doses of pentavalent vaccines, and 900,000 doses of tetanus diptheria vaccines set to be brought into Bangladesh on Tuesday.
In September, roughly 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine from the global stockpile were sent to Bangladesh to prevent the spread of cholera among Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
More than 626,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state for neighboring Bangladesh since August 25 when the military and police launched a crackdown against militants in the area. Many of the Rohingya refugees are living in crowded camps and depend on international aid. Last month, UNICEF said the malnutrition rate among Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh had doubled since May.