The humanitarian situation for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh remains dire, with some 646,000 refugees newly arrived since 25 August 2017. At least 58% of them are children. Even if the pace of arrivals has slowed down, thousands of refugees continue to arrive every week, adding pressure on already heavily stretched resources on the ground.
A diphtheria outbreak is now the top health priority with over 424 suspected cases and 6 deaths reported as of 8 December 2017. In responding to the outbreak, UNICEF is supporting routine immunization for children up to 6 years of age as per the decision of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and has ordered 900,000 doses of Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td) vaccine that will be used for the 7-15 years age category. A UNICEF-developed communication strategy on diphtheria prevention, treatment and management, is currently being implemented.
Emergency nutrition assessments indicate that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among all children 6-59 months of age significantly exceeds the WHO emergency threshold of 15 per cent. The surveys indicate that nearly 50 percent of children are also suffering from anaemia, representing a severe public health problem as per WHO classification threshold of 40 per cent.
Thanks to recent generous contributions from the US Government and the USA National Committee for UNICEF, there was a substantial increase in the level of funding, bringing the current UNICEF appeal to over 60 per cent funded. UNICEF’s provisional funding requirement for 2018 response stands at US$144 million.
Situation Overview and Humanitarian Needs
The influx of Rohingya refugees from northern parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh restarted following attacks at Myanmar Border Guard Police posts on 25 August 2017. As of 30 November, the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) reported that 646,0001 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since the attacks. According to ISCG’s rapid needs assessment, 58 per cent of new arrivals are children and 60 per cent are women including a high number of pregnant (3 per cent) and lactating women (7 per cent). With the new influx, the current total number of Rohingya who have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, coupled with the affected population in the communities, has reached a staggering 1.2 million2. There are 720,000 children among the new arrivals, existing Rohingya populations and vulnerable host communities who are affected and need urgent humanitarian assistance including critical life-saving interventions
The inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2017-18 identified the areas of WASH, health, nutrition and food security and shelter for immediate scale-up to save lives in both settlements and host communities. As per the HRP, the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions. The limited WASH facilities in the refugee established settlements, put in place by WASH sector partners including UNICEF prior to the current influx, are over-stretched, with an average of 100 people per latrine. New arrivals also have limited access to bathing facilities, especially women, and urgently require WASH supplies including soap and buckets. Given the current population density and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, any outbreak of cholera or Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD), which are endemic in Bangladesh, could kill thousands of people residing in temporary settlements. Urgent nutrition needs have been prioritized for children aged under five (including infants), pregnant and lactating women and adolescent girls. These include close to 17,000 children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) to be supported over the next six months. Nutrition sector partners plan to cover 70 per cent of the identified needs in the makeshift and new settlements, host communities and official camps. Moreover, children, adolescents and women in both the Rohingya and host communities are exposed to high levels of violence, abuse and exploitation including sexual harassment, child labour and child marriage and are at high risk of being trafficked. Finally, more than 450,000 total Rohingya children aged 4-18 years old are in need of education services.