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Health risks of Rohingyas

Air, water pollution main cause of hazards: ICCCAD

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Noman Mosharef :
A significant number of Rohingyas are facing serious health risks due to lack of limited access to healthcare services in the crammed camps of Cox's Bazar. Currently, it has become a challenge to address their health needs, said a survey report.
Owing to a large number of Rohingya refugees and their congested living condition in the camps, the world's largest refugee settlements, there has been an overwhelming increase in their health hazards.
The report said, refugees require nine million liters of safe water daily. In addition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are reaching only 30 per cent of the Rohingyas.
The survey conducted by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) with support from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) showed that air and water pollution is the main cause of Rohingya's health risks.
Istiakh Ahmed, coordinator of the study, said, extensively polluted air and
water creates serious health risks for the refugees.  "It's imperative to act swiftly to cut the risk factors."
There have been reports of outbreak of measles in the camps and the number of affected cases is 419. The risks of waterborne and other infectious diseases are still exceptionally high due to their unhygienic living conditions, it said.
It said, diphtheria outbreak has resulted in 38 deaths and more than 5,800 suspected cases of the disease have been reported. There have also been reports on respiratory problems and skin diseases among the refugees.
Among 91,556 adolescent girls and women, 54,633  
are pregnant or lactating mothers. Lactating mothers (9.2pc of total refugees) and pregnant women (4.9pc of the total population) have been identified as the two highest numbers of vulnerable groups within the Rohingya Refugees.
An estimated 42,000 pregnant women, 72,000 lactating mothers and 240,000 under-five children need health assistance. Majority of women are giving births at home, and only 22pc of births occur in health facilities. 2,592 lactating women and 1,145 pregnant women have been admitted to different health center for malnutrition treatment.
In coordination with international organisations some local organisations are working to curve the health problems of the Rohingyas.
Friendship, a country based non-governmental organization, operates various programmes to facilitate the Rohingya's health issues.
Basic Clinics, Friendship Comprehensive Maternity Clinic and Birthing Center, Trained Birth Attendants (TBA), Pediatric Clinic, Health Outreach, Health, Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH), Gender Based Violence (GBV) Counseling and Mental Health and Psycho Social Support (MHPSS), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) support are the main programme in health issue, said Runa Khan, Founder and Executive Director of Friendship.
The study report said, air quality analysis in the refugee camps showed that the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was higher both indoors and outdoors in the camps than Bangladesh standard.
During the survey, 61 per cent of the respondents were being treated for medical conditions like wheezing, tightness of chest, rapid breathing, eczema, high fever, skin irritation, shortness of breath and burning or irritated eyes.
The ICCCAD analysis found all surface water samples and a significant (highest 62 percent) number of groundwater samples tested contain coliforms, a group of bacteria. One of its possible reasons could be the proximity of tube wells to latrines.
Additionally, manganese was detected in 48 per cent tested samples at concentrations higher than the Bangladesh standard, which may impede cognitive development in children.
Survey results showed that diseases and illnesses such as diarrhoea, coughing and skin diseases are major concerns in the camp area. Since 38 per cent of the surveyed water supply lines are passing through the drainage system, chances of spread of diseases from waste are higher.
The report says only 17 percent respondents throw their waste in a public bin while others do it in the open space.
The ICCCAD recommended creating environmental awareness within the Rohingyas and local communities, engaging them in its protection, setting up a proper drainage system and sewage treatment facilities and ensuring solid waste management.
Dr Azharul Islam Khan, head of hospital at ICDDR,B, said he has no idea of air pollution in Rohingya camps but water and sanitation status is now better than the initial days of the Rohingya influx in 2017.
"Also, massive cholera vaccine and health campaigns were undertaken. These measures helped prevent outbreak of diseases," he told this correspondent.
The ICDDR,B doctor, however, expressed worries that shortage of funding may be an issue in terms of promoting health campaigns-something that the international community needs to look at.

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