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Chickenpox spreading in Bangladesh’s Rohingya camps

WHO says 832 Rohingya refugees infected since December but camp dwellers expect number to rise

Chickenpox spreading in Bangladesh’s Rohingya camps

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh 

More than 800 Rohingya refugees living in squalid makeshift camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district have been infected with chickenpox since last December, but residents of the camps expect the figure to surpass 1,000.

As of Jan. 13, 832 Rohingya refugees living in the camps had been confirmed with chickenpox, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on Jan. 15.

“Responding to an outbreak of chickenpox in the Rohingya camps, health sector partners led by the Ministry of Health [in Bangladesh] and WHO have stepped up surveillance and initiated measures,” the statement added.

“Surveillance has been further beefed up in the Rohingya camps,” said Dr. Bardan Jung Rana, WHO representative to Bangladesh.

But Rohingya refugees living in the camps expect the number to rise further.

Ansar Ali, 34, who was chosen by the Bangladesh government to help maintain law and order in his camp, told Anadolu Agency that mostly women and children are being affected.

“I know some in our camp [Kutupalang] who are suffering from this disease and have taken normal medicine,” he said, referring to the standard tablet or capsule for fever or headache and saline for dysentery that are normally distributed to the refugees.

Nasima Khatun, 60, a Rohingya refugee from the same camp, said there are huge mosquitoes and other insects as well as rats in the camp and many of the refugees are suffering from various diseases.

“Diseases are our constant company. We do not know the names of all the diseases. We just take the available medicine we are served,” said 75-year-old Ali Ahmad.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August, 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

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