As part of an intensified response to the current diphtheria outbreak, WHO, UNICEF and health sector partners are working with Bangladesh’s health ministry to vaccinate more than 475,000 children in Rohingya refugee camps and temporary settlements. “All efforts are being made to stop further spread of diphtheria. The vaccination of children in the Rohingya camps and nearby areas demonstrates the health sector’s commitment to protecting people, particularly children, against deadly diseases,” said Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO representative to Bangladesh. Nearly 150,000 children aged six weeks to seven years received pentavalent vaccine (that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, haemophilus influenza type B and hepatitis B), and nearly 166,000 children aged seven to 17 years were given tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine, during a three-week vaccination campaign that ended on December 31.
Two more rounds of vaccination with a diphtheria-containing vaccine, at intervals of one month, are planned to fully protect the children in camps and surrounding areas. “Children are particularly vulnerable to diphtheria. Volunteers are making door-to-door visits in the Rohingya settlements to ensure all children receive vaccination. “The massive influx within a very short time has heavily affected basic services in the settlement areas. They have no choice but to live in a very congested environment, which is impacting their health and quality of life. We are making continued efforts to improve conditions of the camps,” UNICEF country representative Edouard Beigbeder said.