Dr. Azharul Islam Khan, head of the Diarrhoeal Diseases Unit at icddr,b’s Dhaka Hospital, has returned to Bangladesh after spending a week in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, where he provided refresher training to 30 local clinicians caring for internally displaced people and refugees from neighbouring Somalia. From 6 to 15 December 2012, Dr. Khan oversaw the clinicians as they in turn trained community health workers on community-based diarrhoeal disease management.
Dr. Khan’s visit to Dadaab was a follow-up to training programmes held earlier in May, which had been organised as part of a joint Global Cholera Preparedness commitment made by icddr,b and the US humanitarian organisation AmeriCares at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. The programme combines icddr,b’s technical support in treating cholera and other diarrheal diseases with AmeriCares’ expertise in delivering medical supplies in emergency situations. The most recent training sessions were also supported by UNHCR and International Medical Corps.
Hope in the time of cholera
During his visit to Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, Dr. Khan was pleasantly surprised at the high level of confidence and hope amongst health care providers. He came to know, with much satisfaction, that clinicians he had trained in May had successfully combated a diarrhoea/cholera outbreak in July without any case fatalities. While cases of acute watery diarrhoea are still occurring, the situation has been brought under control due to the enhanced knowledge and skills of local medical personnel. Health care providers of all categories, including doctors, nurses, community health workers and paramedics have now received training from icddr,b’s experts in diarrhoeal diseases.
During his recent visit Dr. Khan also led several sessions on the management of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea aimed at increasing the capacity of supervisors and group leaders of community health workers. During the sessions, priority was given to logistics planning and supply distribution in the refugee camps and among internally displaced people. Safe environmental practices were identified as strong elements in tackling diarrhoeal diseases at the community level.
The training sessions also emphasised the importance and value of ORS as the single most universal solution to managing diarrhoeal diseases. Community participation, as the most active arm of community management, was discussed at length.
Dr. Khan first travelled to the region with an icddr,b emergency response team in September 2011 in order to combat a cholera outbreak in the Somali capital Mogadishu, and the refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya, working in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Muslim Aid. During their first visit, the icddr,b team reviewed existing control and prevention guidelines and provided training to health personnel and auxiliary staff from around 70 NGOs and government organisations.