150,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh to be vaccinated amid threat of disease outbreak

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A vaccination campaign against measles, rubella, and polio is underway to immunize 150,000 Rohingya children below the age of 15 in 68 refugee settlements close to the border with Myanmar.

The seven-day campaign is led by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health by providing the vaccines, syringes, and vitamin A capsules.  WHO planned the immunization campaign and is managing and monitoring its field implementation to ensure every child is being reached.

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More than 410,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since August 25, and thousands more are arriving every day. Children account for 60 percent of all refugees, according to preliminary estimates.

“We are happy that we were able to initiate the immunization campaign so quickly to protect the population from a possible measles outbreak,” said Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, WHO Representative to Bangladesh. “We are all working together under the leadership of the Ministry of Health. This is what allowed us to implement this campaign so rapidly.”

“Measles is a very infectious and dangerous disease during emergencies, especially for children who are already weak and malnourished,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s Representative in Bangladesh. “With thousands of children crossing the border every day, vaccination is crucial to prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases.”

With the growing number of Rohingya refugees UNICEF and WHO are scaling up their health and nutrition services as follows:

  • Assisting the Ministry of Health to strengthen routine immunization programme.
  • Support the Ministry to expand the number of doctors, nurses, lab technicians to reinforce maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services.
  • Renovating the delivery and special new-born care units, antenatal and postnatal care corners, and adolescent corners.
  • Improving water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities.
  • Strengthen health coordination for a better response at the field level.
  • Strengthen early warning system and surveillance for outbreak-prone diseases.
  • Strengthening health data through supporting Health Management Information System.

UNICEF will also be sending additional health and nutrition supplies from Dhaka and from its supply hub in Copenhagen. WHO is awaiting supplies from international procurement.

UNICEF will need at least $US 7.3 million for the next three months, but additional funds will be necessary as the refugee population continues to grow.

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