A massive cholera vaccination campaign began to protect nearly one million Rohingyas and their host communities living in and around the refugee camps in Bangladesh, to prevent any potential outbreak during the ongoing monsoon season.
This is a second cholera vaccination campaign being held for the Rohingyas and their host communities on Sunday. Earlier 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine were administered to the vulnerable population in two phases in October – November last year. “Considering the water and sanitation conditions in the overcrowded camps and the increased risk of disease outbreaks in the monsoon season, the health sector is taking all possible measures to prevent cholera and other water and vector-borne diseases,” says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh.
As many as 245 mobile vaccination teams have been deployed to vaccinate all people over the age of one year in refugee camps and host communities in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts during nearly week-long campaign led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support of World Health Organization, UNICEF and icddr,b and other partners.“We have managed to prevent the cholera outbreak since the first campaign in October last year, but flood water, heavy storms and landslides in the monsoon season could damage water and sanitation facilities in the camps, increasing the risk again of an outbreak of this dangerous disease. We have to take all initiatives to address the risk, including preventive measures through vaccination,” says Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh.
The oral cholera vaccines have been made available through the Inter-Agency Coordinating Group with members from WHO, UNICEF, Médecins sans Frontières and International Federation of the Red Cross. The vaccines and supplies are financed by Gavi, the vaccine alliance. “This vaccination campaign is a part of the ongoing efforts of the government and the health sector partners to protect nearly a million people, including at least 135,000 Bangladeshis, who have been affected by the influx since last year,” says Professor Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh.
In addition to vaccination, consistent efforts are being made to improve access to clean water and sanitation and promote hygiene. UNICEF has been scaling up interventions and communication on safe practices. The World Health Organization has raised an early warning, alert and response emergency surveillance system, is monitoring water quality and working with the Department of Public Health Engineering to enhance local laboratory capacity.
Both WHO and UNICEF have prepositioned life-saving supplies to ensure rapid response to any outbreak. The WHO-led Health Sector is supporting setting up of diarrhoea treatment centres, including five supported by UNICEF and managed by icddr,b. UNI