Refugees volunteering within communities to promote good hygiene practices
Portland/Seattle – October 13, 2017–After a rapid appraisal of the deteriorating situation in Bangladesh, where over 500,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the violence in Myanmar since late August, Medical Teams International (Medical Teams) is responding to treat patients and prevent the spread of deadly diseases.
Medical Teams has established the first diarrheal management clinic at the Kutupalong Settlement in southeastern Bangladesh and is training refugee volunteers to act as community health advocates for their neighbors.
Conditions in Kutupalong are dire. Most of the new arrivals live in simple housing made from bamboo sticks and plastic sheets, wading barefoot through thick mud. In areas where open defecation is practiced it becomes a breeding ground for the water-borne cholera.
“A cholera epidemic is our biggest fear,” said Medical Teams volunteer physician Bruce Murray, one of 11 full-time medical professionals at the clinic. “Diarrhea is a leading cause of death in children under five years old here and requires immediate attention through rehydration or other more specialized care. We scaled up a clinic quickly, thanks to our partners on the ground as well as our volunteer team.”
Medical Teams has identified 19 Rohingya refugees to volunteer within their community to identify different illnesses and encourage the refugees to be seen by the medical professionals or in the Diarrhea Clinic.
“This is the best way to ensure that we are able to work most efficiently with these refugees. It’s an amazing partnership that allows us to be that much more effective in ensuring we keep an epidemic at bay,” Murray added.
The clinic helps young mothers like Nur Jahan, a 23-year-old who came to Medical Teams’ facility crying. In her arms, she held her 9-month-old baby swaddled in a blanket.
“She hasn’t been eating, but has diarrhea and throws up instead,” the young mother said through an interpreter, tears streaming down her face. “We survived attacks and a long journey from our home village, but now I worry about my daughter.”
Medical Teams is partnering with the Government of Bangladesh’s Refugee Health Unit and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to ensure the Rohingya refugees have access to health care and to quickly stamp out potential disease outbreaks.
“In a sudden-onset response like this, speed is of the essence. We are fortunate to be working with the UNHCR , as well as local government and non-profit partners to provide urgent medical care,” said Dominic Bowen, Medical Team’s Humanitarian Response lead for Bangladesh. “The situation is extremely serious, and we are doing our best to keep it from escalating.”
Medical Teams International is urgently requesting donations now that will fund this effort. Donations can be made at www.medicalteams.org/Rohingya.