Poor hygiene in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, generating dengue mosquitoes

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus, has infected stateless Rohingya refugees in one of the world’s largest and most crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s southeast coastal district. Health experts say these camps have become a breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes which differ from regular mosquitoes in both shape and color.

Bangladesh currently hosts around 1.2 million Rohingya, the majority of whom fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.

On average, seven to eight people live in a 120 square foot room in a house with a poor sewage system, making the camp a breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially those carrying the dengue virus.

Dengue fever outbreaks are common during the rainy season in many parts of the country, including Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, due to humid conditions.

According to Health Ministry data, nearly 10,000 Rohingya were infected with the dengue virus as of mid-August this year, with seven deaths. This disease killed 105 people last year and infected 28,429 others.

Ansar Ali, a leader of the Rohingya community, is worried about the spread of dengue fever in his two-bed house with nine other people after his younger brother was infected with the virus and treated at a refugee hospital.

“I share a room with my family of five, while my brother shares a room with four other refugees. We are all worried about contracting dengue fever and other infections as we cannot maintain privacy and hygiene. in such overcrowded living conditions,” he told Anadolu. Agency.

– Poor management of sewage and waste

Refugees attributed the situation to the unsanitary environment and poor waste management in the camps.

Khin Maung, a member of the persecuted Rohingya living in Camp-13, told Anadolu Agency that they were frightened by the increase in dengue fever cases.

“Rubbish and trash are strewn about the camps, and waterlogging has become common due to poor waste management and drainage systems. The situation worsens during the rainy season,” the refugee explained.

“There are hospitals inside and outside the refugee camps,” he said, asserting, “but they are insufficient to handle the growing number of dengue patients.”

A mosquito naturally bites a person and transmits the dengue virus to others, according to health experts who, along with rights groups, have called for coordinated efforts to bring the situation under control.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, head of the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), a non-profit organization that works for the Rohingya, told Anadolu Agency that the city of Cox’s Bazar has become one of the most most polluted in the country, posing serious health risks. to its inhabitants.

And, the refugee camps in the region are the worst, he added.

The government has launched dozens of development projects in the tourist hub of Cox’s Bazar, many of which generate environmental pollution.

“Some old canals that are crucial for the normal flow of water during the rainy season have been acquired for road construction. Pollution and destruction of water bodies have caused waterlogging in Cox’s Bazar, which which poses a potential threat for the spread of dengue,” he explained.

– Necessary collective efforts

Some health experts say that the origin and prevalence of dengue is increasing due to the accumulation of water in various areas of the camp, and that collective efforts are needed to bring the situation under control.

Chowdhury said he has repeatedly urged relevant authorities to ban the use of plastic and develop mechanisms for energy recovery from waste in refugee camps.

He, however, stressed that health care facilities for refugees are good, citing COVID-19 as an example, which he said is less common among refugees compared to their large population.

Dr Abu Toha, chief health coordinator at the office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), told Anadolu Agency that the rate of dengue fever infection is not alarming considering the large number refugees in crowded camps.

He admitted, however, that living conditions in so many tents are unsanitary, which is one of the reasons dengue mosquitoes breed. The prevalence of skin diseases in refugee camps has also been exacerbated by overcrowding, he added.

However, medical care is provided to the refugees in collaboration with the government, UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), including a Turkish hospital and health support.

UNHCR has recently set up a hospital with intensive care beds for refugees.

Health and sanitation staff work hard to keep the camps clean.

“I have worked in various refugee camps around the world, and what I see in Bangladesh is much better than what I have seen elsewhere,” said Dr Abu Toha.

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