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Vaccinating Rohingya children to protect against measles, rubella and polio

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2017/Sonnet
5 month-old Josna sleeps peacefully in the arms of her father who has brought her to an immunization centre in Kutupalong camp. UNICEF and WHO are supporting a Govt. led immunization program on Measles and Rubella, polio and Vitamin A supplementation.

By Sonia Sarkar

Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, 26 September 2017: Beneath the pink veil that covers her face, 13-year-old Rafika is a shy girl who has just arrived at the vaccination centre situated in the midst of the bustling Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, that houses over 12,000 Rohingya families.

While some of the Rohingya families have been residing here for the last several years, Rafika reached here eight days ago, from across the Myanmar border. Her mother, Sahmshun Nahar,40, is pregnant. Her 68-year-old grandfather Siraj (centre) could manage to bring her and her mother to safety. Two of her siblings, aged five and seven, are no more.

Though never immunized before, Rafika is amongst the thousands of children who are being targeted under the emergency immunization campaign.

The  campaign is being conducted jointly by UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh to protect  over 150,000 children from the deadly diseases of  measles, rubella and polio - diseases that threaten to take hold where overcrowding and inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene are present.

The measles rubella vaccine is being given to all children between 6 months till 15 years.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2017/Sonnet
(L) Rafika, a 13-year-old refugee reached an immunization centre in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar. UNICEF and WHO are supporting a Govt. led immunization program on Measles and Rubella for all children aged 6 months till 15 years.

There are challenges to reach all the children, because the refugee population is moving around to find a new place to live. Most of the camps are receiving new children every day. “It is critical to vaccinate all children against measles, as living conditions are dire and children are at risk of dying because of crowded living conditions and poor hygiene condition.” said Maya Vandenent, Chief of Health, UNICEF Bangladesh.

Measles is commonly recognizable as patients get a visible red rash with high fever, cough, runny nose and red eye. Rubella, though a mild viral illness, can lead to serious consequences like abortion, miscarriage, still birth, and congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) if it infects during early pregnancy.

CRS can result in multiple defects, particularly affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, many of which are lifelong disabilities that require treatment, surgeries and other expensive cares throughout life.

A large number of the refugees coming into the settlements comprise of pregnant women and children under five years.



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