At least 10,292 cases of diarrhoea have been reported and treated from across the settlements and Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar last week as Bangladesh is witnessing the ‘largest and speediest movement’ of a civilian population in Asia since the 1970s.
More than 4,500 Rohingyas have already been treated for diarrhoea and many others for dehydration, reports UNB.
Over 14,000 children under the age of 5 have severe acute malnutrition, according to data UNB received from IOM’s Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Cox’s Bazar.
Malnourished children are at least six times more prone to die from a diarrheal disease like cholera, according to the IOM observation.
In the past large cholera outbreaks in refugee camps came with an attack rate of 1-5 percent with a peak reached after 2-4 weeks; duration of epidemic varies from 1-3 months.
In a race to prevent an outbreak of cholera among over half a million Rohingya refugees who arrived in the past six weeks, health teams in Cox’s Bazar, launched a mass immunisation operation to dispense oral cholera vaccine (OCV).
The campaign follows a joint international effort to mobilise 900,000 doses of the vaccine from global emergency stockpiles, and detailed planning led by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Welfare and international agencies, including the World Health Organization, IOM, Unicef and MSF.
The first round of the campaign, carried out at upazila or sub-district level, will immunise 650,000 Rohingya men, women and children, aged one year and above, over the next seven days.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare requested the vaccine from the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision (ICG) on September 27.
The ICG is a coordinating mechanism that brings together WHO, Unicef, MSF, and the International Federation of the Red Cross.
GAVI, the vaccine alliance, is providing financial support and multiple national and international agencies, including IOM, the UN Migration Agency, are implementing the campaign.
Over 200 mobile vaccination teams, each with five members, have been mobilised and dispersed across 12 Rohingya camps and makeshift settlements to roll out the campaign.
It will target new settlements in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar, and Naikkhongchorri sub-district of Bandarban, as well as surrounding host communities.
IOM which has mobilised 200 volunteers to conduct the campaign on Wednesday began work in Jamtoli makeshift settlement. Its volunteers will go house to house together with community focal points members to ensure all the refugees receive the vaccine to protect them against cholera.
In the second round of the campaign, 250,000 children between the ages of 1 to 5 will be given a booster dose between 14 days and 3 months after they received the previous dosage, said the IOM.
Since August 25, an estimated 521,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh having fled violence in Myanmar.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease which can kill people very fast if untreated. In severe cases, it can lead to extreme dehydration, shock and death within a few hours. The symptoms of cholera can include watery diarrhea and vomiting, muscle cramps and weakness.
It is contracted mainly by eating or drinking something that has been contaminated by faeces or vomit infected with cholera germs. It can easily spread in densely populated communities where access to safe water and sanitation are poor. Poor hygiene behavior, limited volumes of containers, soap distribution and water treatment as well as high population density are all attributors.
Living in overcrowded crammed and squalid settings with little or no sanitary facilities are the perfect conditions for an outbreak.