B’desh provides free diptheria vaccines to Rohingya children

ANI | Updated: Dec 12, 2017 18:12 IST

Cox's Bazar [Bangladesh], December 12 (ANI): The Government of Bangladesh, in support of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) launched a vaccination campaign against diphtheria and other preventable diseases for all Rohingya children aged between six weeks to six years.

The immunization will cover nearly 255,000 children in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts in Cox’s Bazar.

Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a potent toxin. It is produced by certain strains of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. The risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunization.

“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,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.

Recent data from the WHO Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) shows 722 probable diphtheria cases, in the camps and makeshift settlements hosting the Rohingya refugees, between November 12 and December 10. Nine deaths have been reported.

“The Government of Bangladesh will do everything necessary to contain this outbreak. We thank WHO, UNICEF and other health partners for their swift response to the request of the government to combat this diphtheria outbreak, and for continuously supporting our efforts to provide essential health services for these vulnerable people,” said Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh.

The children are being administered pentavalent vaccines (which protects against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus Influenzae and Hepatitis B), pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) and bivalent oral polio vaccine.

The Serum Institute of India has donated 30, 0,000 doses of pentavalent vaccines for use in the response.

WHO is procuring 2,000 doses of diphtheria anti-toxins to treat diphtheria patients. Nearly 345 doses were hand carried by WHO from New Delhi to Cox’s Bazar.

Three rounds of tetanus diphtheria (Td) vaccines will be provided to the Rohingya children in the age group of 7-15 in the next week.

Around 10,000 health and development workers in Rohingya settlements will also receive the vaccine.

A total of 900,000 doses of Td are arriving from today in Bangladesh.

“We are moving quickly to control this diphtheria outbreak before it spins out of control. The vaccines will help protect every Rohingya child in these temporary settlements from falling prey to the deadly disease. Beyond vaccinations, we are helping health workers to clinically manage suspected cases, trace their contacts, and ensure sufficient supplies of medicines," said Dr Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, WHO Representative to Bangladesh.

WHO and UNICEF are working with communities to ensure that the Rohingyas are aware of the signs and symptoms of diphtheria. They should also be able to get free access of treatment as soon as possible.

The Rohingyas are minority Muslim refugees who have come from Myanmar. Uprisings against them by extremist Buddhists have driven them out from the Buddhist-majority country. (ANI)

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