The World Health Organization has appealed to the international community to contribute generously to enable appropriate and timely health services to highly vulnerable Rohingyas, now facing grave risks to their lives and health in view of the coming rainy season.
A grossly underfunded health sector has been struggling to meet the needs of 1.3 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar, the UN body said in a release yesterday.
“This is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent times. No single agency or the government of Bangladesh alone can meet the massive health needs of such a large population group,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO-SEARO, at a meeting of partners.
“The Rohingya population is settled in an area that is prone to cyclone, and a terrain that would be flooded as soon as rains begin. The risk of outbreak of life threatening water and vector-borne diseases under such conditions is huge,” she added.
The WHO said it along with the health ministry has been coordinating the work of over 100 partners on the ground. It has facilitated the contingency plan for the rainy season.
The plan aims at continuity of health services during rains and floods to minimise the risk of disease and deaths among the affected population.
All 207 health facilities in the area have been assessed for vulnerability during rains, following which nearly 25 percent of them are being relocated, said the release.
Another cholera and measles vaccination campaign is being planned in next month as a preventive measure for the vulnerable population.
Earlier, 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine were administered to the refugees and their host communities, in addition to two vaccination campaigns for measles and three for diphtheria which concluded earlier this week with WHO support.
According to the release, the WHO is prepositioning medicines, medical supplies and equipment for the rainy season. Since the start of the Rohingya crisis, the WHO has provided over 120 tonnes of supplies and logistics support to partners.
The UN body continues to provide critical technical support such as surveillance for epidemic prone and other diseases, collecting and sharing of information and data to enable the health sector take timely preventive measures and conducting preparedness trainings for the upcoming monsoons.
“However, much of the health sector's capacity to respond depends on availability of resources,” said Poonam, who visited Rohingya camps earlier this week.
The sooner the health sector gets the funds it needs, the better would be its ability to scale up services to quickly and adequately respond to health needs of the refugees.
Besides risks posed by floods and rain, the vulnerable population would need continued services for reproductive, maternal and child health, for communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as psychosocial support, the WHO official said.
The WHO has appealed for $16.5 million from partners to facilitate its continued support to the Rohingya response in 2018, which is part of the $113.1 million being sought by all health partners together under the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya crisis.