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WHO fears monsoons will aggravate Rohingya crisis

  • Published at 10:46 am March 29th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:39 am March 30th, 2018
WHO fears monsoons will aggravate Rohingya crisis
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed for more donor support for Rohingyas ahead of the monsoons. The organization fears that the tropical season will expose the forcibly displaced Rohingyas to intensified health risks. "For us it [monsoon season] is a great worry," WHO's Regional Director for South- East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh told BSS in an interview, a day after visiting the improvised and crowded Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar. She said WHO launched a second appeal for expanded international help for the Rohingyas ahead of the rainy season while it simultaneously planned to start a fourth round of vaccinations to prevent the possible outbreak of cholera epidemics in Rohingya camps. The WHO regional chief particularly expressed concerns about the poor sanitation system at the camp scene saying: "For now, it is manageable, but when the rain starts sanitation will be a big challenge." "Help is coming, sentiment of help is there in Geneva," she said referring to the prospects of donor response to the appeal mobilized in WHO headquarters in the Swiss city. The regional chief of World Health Organization for the region (WHO-SEARO) is in Bangladesh on a four-day visit to witness the crisis involving Rohingyas who fled their home to evade military atrocities. The UN called the Myanmar military actions "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and rights groups have described it as genocide. Earlier on Wednesday, Khetrapal Singh called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and held a meeting with representatives of donor agencies in Dhaka on resource mobilization as part of health care preparation on the face of impending dangers to be faced by the Rohingyas. She said: "WHO was spending $1m every month to extend healthcare support to Rohingyas but the global health body was prepared to enhance the amount if the situation deserved it." Khetrapal Singh said three rounds of diphtheria, measles, and cholera vaccines were administered in Rohingya camps as "this (vaccination) I thought is very useful, because the greatest worry is of course monsoon." "We will go for another round of vaccination after the fourth one and we have enough stock of vaccines at the camps . . . WHO has assessed the risk and procured the vaccines," she said. The WHO official, however, expressed concerns about continued Rohingya influx saying: "They are still coming. It has not stopped. It is still going on." Khetrapal Singh said the situation prompted her organization to go for repeated rounds of vaccination so no one was exposed to breakout of waterborne diseases. She said WHO was giving highest level priority under its World Health Emergency (WHE) programme to address the Rohingyas’ health concerns. The WHO regional chief, however, said during every round of vaccination they covered the host community in the neighbourhood as well and "whenever we will go for vaccination next time, we will cover the entire area as well." She highly lauded Bangladesh government’s role in handling the crisis and offering refuge to over one million Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds. "Bangladesh government is doing a lot. It is not easy. There are over a million people [Rohingya] . . . It's like [the entire population of] another country," the WHO official said. Asked for comments about Bangladesh's repeated call seeking sustained international pressure on Myanmar to stop atrocities and repatriate the Rohingyas, she said the WHO generally "doesn't intervene in internal or regional politics." However, she said if required, WHO could join the campaign from the UN platform along with other agencies. The Rohingya issue has required Bangladesh to engage, among other resources, some 28,000 people to work round-the-clock for refugee management and services. Khetrapal Singh, an Indian national, became the first woman to assume the office of WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia on 1 February 2014.
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