Vaccination Begins in Bangladesh Camps to Prevent Cholera

Vaccination Begins in Bangladesh Camps to Prevent Cholera Vaccination Begins in Bangladesh Camps to Prevent Cholera

The World Health Organization (WHO) began distributing 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine on Tuesday in Bangladesh’s camps for Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar, as authorities rush to prevent a major outbreak of the deadly disease.

More than 10,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported in the past week alone, the WHO said, Reuters reported.

Doctors in two clinics have told Reuters that there have been several cases of patients with the symptoms of cholera, a virulent diarrhea that kills within 36 hours if not treated.

Cholera has not been identified in testing of patient samples by Bangladesh’s Health Ministry, although clinics say they are waiting for results of some samples sent last week.

“There is a clear risk for cholera,” said Dr N. Paranietharan, the WHO’s representative in Bangladesh.

“Sporadic cases are inevitable (but) we are not expecting a major outbreak like Yemen,” he said.

War-torn Yemen is in the grip of a cholera crisis, with more than 750,000 sufferers afflicted by the bacteria, which is spread when contaminated faeces are ingested by humans, usually through the water supply.

The cholera vaccination campaign in Bangladesh, the second largest in history, will be crucial to containing any outbreak, said Paranietharan.

More than 1,000 people will fan out across the sprawling camps on the southern tip of Bangladesh that are home to more than 519,000 Rohingya Muslims.

The Rohingya fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar when government forces launched a ferocious offensive, denounced by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing, in response to a series of Rohingya militant attacks on security posts on Aug. 25.

In pounding heat and stifling humidity, traumatized and malnourished refugees are crammed into bamboo and canvas huts packed across muddy hillsides. Faeces lie in lanes that flood in the pouring rain.

 UNHCR on Full Alert

Bangladesh border guards reported more than 11,000 Rohingya refugees crossing into their country from Myanmar on Monday, in a sudden surge, the United Nations refugee agency said.

More than half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25 after insurgent attacks on security forces triggered a violent government crackdown, but the rate had slowed to about 2,000 refugees per day last week, aid agencies say.

“We’re back in a situation of full alert as far as influxes are concerned. It is a big increase to see 11,000,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis will meet Myanmar’s top Buddhist monks, its military generals and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November when he visits that country and Bangladesh, the Vatican said on Tuesday. 

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