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330,000 Rohingyas and host community to get cholera vaccine in Cox’s Bazar

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Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 17 November 2018: Nearly 330,000 Rohingyas refugees and Bangladesh host community will be vaccinated against cholera in a month-long campaign beginning today in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and its nearby areas, to protect vulnerable population against the deadly disease amidst increased risk of flooding in the ongoing cyclone season.

Led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and partners such as Gavi, the vaccine alliance, the campaign aims to reach people who missed some or all previous cholera vaccination opportunities.

“Despite the progress and efforts made by humanitarian agencies to improve water and sanitation conditions in Rohingya camps, cholera remain a concern. Oral cholera vaccination is the most effective way to protect such a large section and reduce the risk of disease outbreak,” says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative in Bangladesh.

Nearly 2.2 million doses of oral cholera vaccines have been dispensed among Rohingya refugees and their host population through three massive vaccination campaigns since November 2017.

“Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhea. It takes between 12 hours and five days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated. It is extremely important to ensure that those who missed their first or second dose during previous campaigns are now covered,” says Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh.

Over 100 mobile and fixed-site vaccination teams, comprising of over 700 vaccinators and volunteers, and supported by 4,000 health workers and mobilisers, are part of the massive immunization effort.

“With concerted efforts of the Government of Bangladesh, WHO, UNICEF and other health partners, cholera outbreak has been averted in Cox’s Bazar. The Government is committed to take all possible measures to keep the deadly disease at bay,” 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, continuing efforts are being made with the support of UNICEF to improve access to clean water and sanitation and promote hygiene – both critical measures to control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases. UNICEF and its partners have been at the forefront of efforts to improve the ability of frontline health workers to combat diarrhoea.

Keeping a strict vigil on the situation, the World Health Organization has launched an early warning, and emergency surveillance system, which includes monitoring of diseases being reported to the health facilities. Additionally, WHO is supporting monitoring of water quality and is enhancing laboratory capacity of the Department of Public Health Engineering.

Both WHO and UNICEF have prepositioned life-saving medical supplies to ensure a rapid response to any cholera outbreak.