Rohingya refugees face chickenpox outbreak in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees face chickenpox outbreak in Bangladesh

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar are facing a fresh problem in Bangladesh, where they now live in congested and squalid camps.

There has been an outbreak of chickenpox among the refugees, with around 20,000 people affected this year so far.

"My 2-year-old daughter Sharifa has been suffering from a fever in the last three days,” Arifa Begum, 32, told Arab News while waiting in line at a medical center in Kutupalang camp. “Only this morning I noticed a few rashes on her body and rushed to the medical center."

Ambia Bibi, 26, was with her 6-year-old boy Ajim Uddin and was also waiting to see a doctor. 

"I took medicines three days back for my son Ajim. But due to chickenpox he had severe vomiting and today I came here for follow up treatment,” she told Arab News.

Hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya Muslim minority arrived in Bangladesh following the crackdown, which triggered the exodus and strained resources in the impoverished country.

“It (chickenpox) is a highly contagious disease and this year the number of patients are much higher than the previous year,” Dr. Shahidul Islam told Arab News.

The medic, who works at the medical center in Kutupalang camp, said the outbreak among Rohingya children was almost like an “epidemic” although authorities have not officially declared it to be one.

His medical center treated hundreds of children for chickenpox last month, with hundreds more diagnosed this month. 

According to UNHCR, around half a million Rohingya children live in congested camps, making them more vulnerable to the disease. 

UNICEF is providing medical support through its 19 health centers and, of these, three are operating seven days a week.

“Since the children of the refugee camps live in such congested condition we can’t take enough measures to check the spread of chickenpox," UNICEF spokeswoman Nazzina Mohsin told Arab News. “To spread awareness information we have engaged around 1,000 of our volunteers.”

Surgeon Abdul Matin said around 20,000 people had been affected by chickenpox since the start of the year, but added that the situation was in hand.

“Most of the affected were children,” he told Arab News. “Since Dec. 22 we have engaged our people to spread leaflets containing awareness information regarding chickenpox. It's not a deadly disease and the situation is very much within control.”

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