The many thousands of new and soon-to-be mothers among the latest Rohingya refugees are facing a different kind of risk after arriving in Bangladesh, a leading doctor has warned.
Dr Md Jahangir Alam Sarker, the director of the maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health project under the health directorate, said the Rohingya women and children fleeing Myanmar are exposed to various health hazards with the pregnant refugees, numbering 15,000 to 16,000, the most vulnerable.
“Pregnant women and lactating mothers lack nutrition (so) how can they feed their babies?” he said. “There is no environment to even breastfeed. I don’t think Rohingya women ever had enough nutrition.”
According to a report published by Inter Sector Co-ordination Group (ISCG), 299,956 of the Rohingyas from Myanmar are suffering from malnutrition, of whom 154,000 are children below the age of five.
Among 91,556 adolescent girls and women, 54,633 are pregnant or lactating mothers.
Health Directorate’s Director of Disease Control Dr Sania Tahmina said she was at Balukhali camp in Ukhiya where thousands of refugees are living under the open sky.
“There are not many ill men, but pregnant women and children face the highest health risks,” she said. “As a doctor, I can say that the pregnant women are suffering from malnutrition.”
She said 11 women had given birth at Kutupalong Community Clinic up to Sunday. “They will face greater health hazards if we fail to arrange water and sanitation.”
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Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Sheikh Abdus Salam said local healthcare managers are holding talks with health directorate officials in Dhaka to improve the situation.
“The capacity of hospitals has been increased to accommodate any type of emergency for the 15,000 to 16,000 (pregnant) Rohingya women,” he said. “The number of doctors, nurses and midwives is more than that of any other time.”
Sheikh Abdus Salam said free ambulances were being laid on to take any Rohingya woman experiencing birth complexities to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital, and Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazila Hospital.
“The highest attention is being paid to solving problems pertaining to the health of Rohingya women and children,” he said.
Dr Ayesha Akhter, in charge of the Health Emergency Operation Center and Control Room of the health directorate, said most of the sick refugees are suffering from diarrhoea and respiratory problems.
Between August 25 and September 16, a total of 4,609 Rohingya were admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital, Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital, and Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazila Hospital.
Among them, 541 were suffering from diarrhoea and 3,293 had respiratory problems including one patient who died. A further 925 had a skin disease.
Dr Sania Tahmina said: “It is easy to conclude that the most backward population of Myanmar was never conscious about their health. Having spoken to few, I found that they are not the least bothered about whether they are affected by malaria or diarrhoea,”
Civil Surgeon Salam said a total of 130,000 children were administered measles vaccine and 43,000 children received oral polio vaccines between September 16 and 18.
A team led by Health Directorate Director General Dr Abul Kalam Azad is also monitoring the situation and health condition of the Rohingya at Teknaf and Ukhiya.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune