The World Health Organization reports 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine are expected to arrive in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh Saturday. A mass vaccination campaign for Rohingya refugees is set to begin Tuesday, October 10.
More than one half million Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar since August 25 are at risk of getting cholera. Conditions in the squalid, overcrowded, makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar are perfect for an outbreak of this fatal disease. Cholera is spread by contaminated drinking water, unsafe food and poor sanitary conditions.
A spokesman for the World Health Organization, Tarik Jasarevic, says the planned oral vaccination campaign will prevent the worst from happening.
“Target population is 650,000 people. Every individual above the age of one. More than 200 teams, vaccinators and volunteers would carry out the campaign,” said Jasarevic. “The second round of the campaign is expected to be held after about two weeks, at the end of the first one.”
Jasarevic says 250,000 children between the ages of one and five will be covered in this second round. He says Bangladeshi communities who are hosting the Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State also will be vaccinated against cholera.
To ease conditions for the refugees, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Joel Millman, says the Bangladesh government has allocated a further 1,000 acres of land. This is in addition to the 2,000 acres it already had made available in mid-September.
“Officials plan to use the vast site to accommodate all the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar—both new and old arrivals—in one settlement,” said Millman. “At close to 700,000 people, this will become the world’s largest refugee camp.”
Aid officials acknowledge the need for better housing for the refugees, but, they say building a big camp is not the solution to the Rohingya crisis. They say the root causes must be addressed. Conditions must be created in Myanmar that would allow for the safe, voluntary return of the refugees.