More than half a million Rohingya refugees have fled persecution in Myanmar, seeking refuge in makeshift shelters in Bangladesh. In order to respond to the growing need for medical care in Bangladesh, SAMS Global Response (SGR) has partnered with a local medical organization, Gonoshaathata Kendra (GK) to assess the situation in Cox’s Bazar and deliver medical assistance, including supporting mobile and static clinics, distributing medical supplies and addressing nutritional needs.
Based on observations and conversations with local partners, refugees, and actors, our team has identified some of the most pressing needs that must be urgently addressed:
- Maternal health care: The Ministry of Health reports that among the population of concern, 70,000 females are pregnant, and access to trained birth attendants and specialized OBGYN support is non-existent. New born babies may be exposed to life-threatening infections.
- Lack of health care providers: The few medical facilities/providers face an overwhelming case load in need of medical care. There is only one medical clinic in Teknaf provides doctors 24/7. Local doctors asking for additional medical personnel to provide support.
- WASH: There is a great need for access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities/latrines.
- Shelter: Necessary ground materials such as mats are needed. Refugees are currently residing in temporary sheds made of flimsy materials that cannot provide sufficient protection from monsoon rains.
- Nutrition: Immediate general food assistance is acutely needed, as well as therapeutic feeding. Almost 50 percent of women we spoke to reported that they had not eaten for five days, and their last meal consisted of only rice. SAMS staff witnessed large numbers of young babies under 9 months with signs of being malnourished.
- Gender Based Violence (GBV) Prevention & Care: Lights and electricity, as well as larger security concerns of women and girls must be urgently addressed, especially in regard to accessing water and sanitation facilities. Acute need for gender based violence care.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a “very high” risk of a cholera outbreak. According to the Bangladesh health authorities, close to 4,500 Rohingya have been treated for diarrhea.
“Seeing this level of horror in the pictures and articles on the news urged me to take action in some way. I can’t help but imagine what it must be like for these women and children to leave everything behind and run for their lives.” – Dr. Purnima Kabir, SAMS OBGYN Doctor.
SGR’s Emergency Response Team in Bangladesh includes medical professionals and humanitarian relief experts. Over the last couple of days, SAMS SGR doctors visited and distributed medical supplies to a mobile clinic in a makeshift camp in Cox’s Bazaar. An estimated 38,500 refugees reside in the makeshift camp, one of many makeshift settlements lacking necessities such as clean drinking water and sanitation.
In April 2016, SAMS launched SGR to provide quality healthcare to refugees and displaced populations affected by disaster. SGR aims to extend the outreach of SAMS medical missions to civilians around the world suffering from conflicts and natural disasters. Since then, SGR has also provided care in Haiti and Pakistan. In addition to our current work in Bangladesh, SGR is planning its first medical missions to Yemen later this year.
“They are giving birth to their children right beside the road while they are escaping from their country. This really shocked me.” – Dr. Saba Al-Salem, SAMS Doctor
In coming weeks, the team will ramp up services provided in collaboration with partners. Many doctors on the ground are reporting war-related wounds from possible mines. As monsoon rains continue in Cox’s Bazaar, and refugees continue to cross over, the need is only increasing.
SAMS’ SGR program works to minimize the loss of life and alleviate the suffering of disaster-affected populations across the globe.