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Bangladesh steps up vaccination for new Rohingya arrivals as measles cases rise


Press release 1671


Bangladesh steps up vaccination for new Rohingya arrivals as measles cases rise

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 November 2017 – An increase in the number of suspected measles cases among the newly arrived Rohingya and their host communities in southern Bangladesh has prompted the Government and UN partners to step up immunization efforts in overcrowded camps and makeshift shelters close to the border with Myanmar.
Nearly 360 000 people in the age group of six months to 15 years among the new Rohingya arrivals in Cox’s Bazar and their host communities, irrespective of their immunization status, would be administered measles and rubella  vaccine through fixed health facilities, outreach vaccination teams, and at entry points into Bangladesh.
Measles, a childhood killer disease which can be particularly dangerous among unimmunized and malnourished children,  is one of the major health risks among the over  611 000 people who have crossed over to Bangladesh from Myanmar since late August and are now living in cramped and insanitary conditions  in Cox’s Bazar district.

As of 4 November, one death and 412 suspected cases of measles have been reported among the vulnerable populations living in camps, settlements, and among the host communities in Cox’s Bazar. Of them, 352 cases are from Ukhia and 46 from Teknaf sub-districts, and 11 have been reported from the district hospital. Majority of cases – 398 – are among the new arrivals and 14 among the host communities. As many as 82% cases are among children under five years of age.
“Children are especially at risk from outbreaks of measles and other communicable diseases that result from the crowded living conditions, malnutrition and severe lack of water and sanitation in the camps and other sites,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative. “To halt any wider outbreak, it’s essential that coordinated efforts begin immediately to protect as many children as possible.”
With the risk of measles being high during such health emergencies, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), with support of WHO, UNICEF and other local partners, was quick to roll out a measles and rubella (MR) vaccination campaign, between 16 September and 4 October, within weeks of the start of the recent influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar. Nearly 136 000 children between six months and 15 years were administered MR vaccine. Additionally, around 72 000 children up to five years of age were given bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) and a dose of Vitamin A to help prevent measles related complication. The number of new arrivals has increased since the MR campaign, which also had challenges reaching out to all children in view of movement of people within the camps and settlements.
“As part of stepped up vaccination efforts, 43 fixed health facility sites, 56 outreach vaccination teams and  vaccination teams at main border entry points will administer MR vaccine to population aged six months to 15 years, along with oral polio vaccine to children under five years and TT vaccine to pregnant women. These efforts are aimed at protecting and preventing the spread of measles among the vulnerable population,” WHO Representative to Bangladesh, Dr N Paranietharan, said.
More than 70 vaccinators from government and partners have been trained to deliver routine vaccination though fixed sites and outreach teams beginning tomorrow, while vaccination at entry points at Subrang, Teknaf, is ongoing since 1 November.
The fixed sites and outreach teams will also cover under two year olds with vaccines available in Bangladesh  EPI schedule, such as BCG, pentavalent vaccine, oral polio vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and two doses of MR vaccine.
As an additional measure, resources to treat measles cases are being reinforced with the distribution of vitamin A supplements, antibiotics for pneumonia and Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) for diarrhoea related to measles. To improve hygiene conditions among the refugee population, 3.2 million water purification tablets and a total of 18,418 hygiene kits have been distributed benefitting 92,090 people.
The current initiative is yet another massive vaccination drive being rolled out for the new arrivals from Myanmar and their host communities in Cox’s Bazar since 25 August this year.  After covering 136 000 people in the September- October MR campaign, MoHFW and partners administered 900 000 doses of oral cholera vaccine to these vulnerable populations in two phases. The first phase that started 10 October covered over 700 000 people aged one year and above  – both the new arrivals and their host communities, while the second phase from 4 – 9 November provided an additional dose of OCV to 199,472 children between one and five years, for added protection  and bOPV to 236,696 children under 5 years of age.


For further information please contact:

  • Catalin-Constantin Bercaru, WHO Bangladesh,  +88 01787693318
  • Shamila Sharma, WHO South-East Asia Regional Office, +91 9818287256
  • Jean Jacques Simon, UNICEF Bangladesh,, +880 01713043478
  • AM Sakil Faizullah, UNICEF Bangladesh, +880 1713 049900
  • Faria Selim, UNICEF Bangladesh, +880 1817 586 096

Officials from Bangladesh insist that Myanmar must take the Rohingya back.

NY Times

“…..Bangladesh now finds itself in an impossible situation. One of Asia’s poorest countries, it is home to 160 million people — half the population of the United States — squeezed into a space the size of Iowa. The Rohingya refugees have taken over hillsides, chopped down countless trees to build their shelters and put such a stress on the economy of Bangladeshi border villages that

Facing international pressure to host the refugees and some domestic pressure to push them out, Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has said that her country would continue to help the refugees on humanitarian grounds but that Myanmar must “take their nationals back.”

She has ordered the army to seal off roads around the camps to make sure Rohingya do not start migrating to towns. Her government has also decreed that Rohingya were not allowed to work or register for local cellphone service…..

“If they stay where they are living now,” said Anup Kumar Chakma, a retired Bangladeshi Army officer, “the entire area will become a fertile breeding ground.”

And not only fertile for terrorist recruiters, but also for human traffickers, criminal gangs, prostitution rings — anyone who preys on the vulnerable……….”

Volunteer medical team spent 10 days treating patients at 3 Rohingya refugee camps

CBC News

“…..There is an acute shortage of medication. There are not enough medications and life-saving drugs. There are about 90,000 pregnant women and lots of people are arriving every day and people have walked for days in the jungle, for 10 to 14 days, hungry, eating banana leaves on their way then they crossed the border and entered into refugee camps.

There are lots of sick kids, I have seen lots of illnesses that I have not seen in my 18-year medical career. Lots of respiratory illnesses, every other child with pneumonia. There were no diagnostic imaging, no x-rays, no labs that I could do any work-up for them. A horrible situation…….There are about 12 camps total, and there about 70,000 registered people who are living in each camp. There are lots of unregistered people there. They are sharing small tents. I have seen lots of young children … they were naked running around in the streets.

There is a lack of proper washrooms, they need sanitation there. There is a lack of clean water, they have put some drinking water pumps but it’s not enough. It’s very, very poor……”


“For the first time since Myanmar’s military unleashed violence against Rohingya Muslims in August, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who heads the civilian government, on Thursday visited the state where the atrocities have been taking place….”

NY Times


US State Department: “The government of Burma, including its armed forces, must take immediate action to ensure peace and security; implement commitments to ensure humanitarian access to communities in desperate need; facilitate the safe and voluntary return of those who have fled or been displaced in Rakhine State; and address the root causes of systematic discrimination against the Rohingya.”

NY Times

  • More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have battled terror, exhaustion and hunger to reach safety in Bangladesh since Myanmar’s army began a campaign of what the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing in late August.

  • The new arrivals joined more than 300,000 Rohingya who had escaped in recent years.

  • The number of people crossing the Naf River that divides the two countries has slowed to about 1,000 to 3,000 a day, down from a peak of 12,000 to 18,000 a day earlier in the crisis

  • More than 300,000 children are among the Rohingya refugees.

  • Hundreds of thousands of refugees were crammed on a strip of land that lacked roads or infrastructure to support the delivery of aid.
  • 210 hospital beds available to support more than 900,000 people living with little access to clean water, sanitation or medical care
  • The refugees’ situation is a “time bomb ticking toward a full-blown health crisis”:  Doctors Without Borders
  • The United Nations food aid agency said that it had distributed food to 580,000 people since the crisis erupted, but that it had so far received less than one-third of the $77 million it needs to aid a million people over six months.


An overwhelming body of published accounts has detailed the Myanmar Army’s campaign of killing, rape and arson in Rakhine, which has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya out of the country since late August, in what the United Nations says is the fastest displacement of a people since the Rwanda genocide.

NY Times

“…..Government officials, opposition politicians, religious leaders and even local human-rights activists have become unified behind this narrative: The Rohingya are not rightful citizens of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, and now, through the power of a globally resurgent Islam, the minority is falsely trying to hijack the world’s sympathy.

Social media postings have amplified the message, claiming that international aid workers are openly siding with the Rohingya. Accordingly, the Myanmar government has blocked aid agencies’ access to Rohingya still trapped in Myanmar — about 120,000 confined to camps in central Rakhine and tens of thousands more in desperate conditions in the north…..”

“My World is Finished”: Rohingya targeted in crimes against humanity in Myanmar

Amnesty International

“…..The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists 11 types of acts which, when knowingly committed during such an attack, constitute crimes against humanity. Amnesty International has consistently documented at least six of these amid the current wave of violence in northern Rakhine State: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions……”

“More than 530,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled northern Rakhine State in terror in a matter of weeks amid the Myanmar security forces’ targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning, Amnesty International said today in its most detailed analysis yet of the ongoing crisis.

‘My World Is Finished’: Rohingya Targeted in Crimes against Humanity in Myanmar describes how Myanmar’s security forces are carrying out a systematic, organized and ruthless campaign of violence against the Rohingya population as a whole in northern Rakhine State, after a Rohingya armed group attacked around 30 security posts on 25 August.

Dozens of eyewitnesses to the worst violence consistently implicated specific units, including the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, the 33rd Light Infantry Division, and the Border Guard Police. ……”+


Since Sunday, 10,000 to 15,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh at Anjuman Para

NY Times



‘They Threw My Baby Into a Fire’: Rohingya atrocities

NY Times

“…..In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.

By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes….”


U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said after a visit to Cox’s Bazar this week that the most urgent needs were shelter, clean water and sanitation.


  • About 480,000 men, women and children have arrived in Cox’s Bazar since the end of August.  Most came with nothing more than the clothes they wore.
  • Nearly 200 of the women have given birth since they arrived and another 20,000 are pregnant.
  • The authorities made 22 decisions to remove logistical hurdles.  These included building 14 storage warehouses, regulating aid distribution, protecting orphans, building roads and power infrastructure, and setting up shelters for more than 500,000 people.
  • 475 tonnes of aid have arrived at Chittagong airport north of Cox’s Bazar
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday called on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims until the military puts sufficient accountability measures in place.



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