WHO releases $1.5 million to scale up operations in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released $ 1.5 million to scale up health operations in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps over the next six months, in response to a "diphtheria outbreak" there.

The global body said it has deployed additional staff and resources to respond to the rapidly spreading outbreak of the disease among the refugees in Cox's Bazar, adding that it has seen more than "1,500 probable cases including 21 deaths".

"The WHO has released $1.5 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to help finance scaling up of health operations in Cox's Bazar over the next six months," the health body said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Representational image. AP

"The Rohingya refugees are an extremely vulnerable population with low routine vaccination coverage. WHO is applying a 'no regrets' policy when allocating resources to help prevent and protect communities from the spread of diphtheria and ensure that those who are sick receive critical care and treatment," said Roderico Ofrin, Regional Emergency Director, WHO South-East Asia Regional Office.

"The funds released will be crucial in sustaining our efforts until we receive more support from donors for this response," Ofrin was quoted as saying in the statement.

Over the next six months, the funds will be used to support immunisation activities, improve laboratory capacity, support community engagement, contact tracing, and case management in health facilities through critical guidance as well as the provision of essential medicines and supplies.

In the past week, WHO has deployed additional experts, procured hospital beds to accommodate more patients in diphtheria treatment centres, provided 1,345 vials of lifesaving diphtheria anti-toxins and 3 lakh doses of antibiotics, and is working with health authorities to support ongoing vaccination efforts for both children and health workers, it said.

In addition to this, WHO is working with more than 80 health partners to improve access to essential life-saving primary and secondary health services in Cox's Bazar, over 300 kilometres from Dhaka.

"For 2018, the health sector will request additional funding to help 1.2 million people living in refugee camps and temporary settlements," the statement added.

Updated Date: Dec 19, 2017 22:15:43 IST