Health Services Expand in Bangladesh Refugee Camps, But Monsoon Rains Bring New Threats  

Posted: 
05/14/19
Themes: 
Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration Health, Refugee and Asylum Issues

Cox’s Bazar – Dr. Samir Howlader remembers less than two years ago when most health services were delivered on foot or in rented ambulances to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees streaming into Bangladesh from Myanmar. 

“There were effectively no facilities in August 2017 for the new arrivals,” he said, referring to the nearly one million Rohingyas who fled across the border to Cox’s Bazar. “Many of them had dysentery, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. There were also burns, bullet wounds and other horrible injuries. It would have strained even an advanced health system.”   

The mobile medics also faced overwhelming logistical difficulties. There were five teams providing mobile services and five shuttling patients to facilities outside the camps. They had to carry their own medicines and often travelled on muddy trails in difficult conditions, according to Dr Howlader, an IOM National Health Programme Officer.  

Just eighteen months later, the situation on the ground has improved beyond recognition, according to IOM Emergency Health Coordinator Dr Francis Tabu.  Many of the bamboo clinics have been upgraded to pre-fabricated facilities and many more healthcare staff have been brought on board. 

IOM now has 45 doctors, 40 midwives, 31 nurses, as well as ambulance drivers and other ancillary staff working in both the camps and host communities. Over a million patients have received consultations at 11 IOM and nine IOM-supported government clinics since August 2017. Over 3,200 babies were successfully delivered in the first three months of this year. 

But with the monsoon expected to start within the next month, IOM doctors warn that healthcare in the camps is still inadequate to meet the needs of its residents. Every year the heavy rain and high winds bring waterborne diseases including acute diarrhea, upper and lower respiratory tract infections and tropical parasites. In 2018 many people were also injured by weather-related accidents and landslides.   

At a health workshop to take stock of achievements and plan for the challenges ahead last week in Cox’s Bazar, Dr Tabu told the IOM health team that better feedback from the refugees and local communities was essential if they were to “up their game and improve the quality of services.” “We need to encourage suggestions from patients and incentivize people to provide feedback to (IOM’s) Feedback and Information Centres,” he said. 

Click here for the latest Situation Report detailing IOM’s work in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. 

For more information please contact George McLeod at IOM Cox’s Bazar, Tel: +880 18 7071 8078, Email: gmcleod@iom.int   

 

  • A Rohingya refugee and her baby are treated at IOM’s clinic in Leda, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: IOM/Muse Mohammed