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Geneva Palais Briefing Note: Urgent measures to improve hygiene practices underway inside Rohingya refugee camps

© UNICEF/LeMoyne
Sultan Ahmad, 15, gives his brother Osman Goni, 1.5, water at their shelter in Balukhali makeshift settlement, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

This is a summary of what was said by Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF Spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, 21 November 2017 - UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports suggesting high levels of bacterial contamination (E.coli) from water drawn from wells inside the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh. The latest figures from the World Health Organization suggest that 62 per cent of water available to households is contaminated.

We are also concerned by an increase in cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) which have included several deaths. Between 25 August and 11 November 2017, a total of 36,096 AWD cases were reported including 10 related deaths. A total of 42 per cent (15,206) were in the under-5 age group. We are seeing an upward trend in infection rates. Whilst the exact cause of increased cases of AWD remains uncertain, it may be linked to contaminated food or water.

Reasons for this contamination

Some of the tube wells inside the camps have been dug to shallower depths, have been poorly sited, are very congested and do not have safeguards in place to prevent bacterial contamination at ground level.

UNICEF has been working with its WASH partners to construct tube wells which meet international standards by ensuring a depth of at least forty meters and by ensuring that all tube wells have an appropriate sealing.

Contamination may be being caused through poor hygiene practices such as the use of dirty containers, bad hygiene habits of the population in water handling

UNICEF Response
Based on an analysis of the risk, UNICEF is working with the Bangladesh authorities to urgently investigate levels of contamination, and to ensure better construction practices for tube wells that meet international standards.

We are stepping up measures to distribute water purification tablets to provide for water treatment at the household level as well as promoting good hygiene practices.

The provision of safe drinking water has been one of the highest priorities for UNICEF in responding to the needs of Rohingya refugees. Since 25th August and the start of the massive influx which has seen some 621,000 new arrivals in less than three months, UNICEF and partners have been working to ensure the provision of safe drinking water, latrines and sanitation systems inside the refugee camps.

Currently, we are distributing around 195,000 liters daily to over 50,000 people through water treatment and trucking; additionally, we have installed more than 420 tube wells serving some 140,000 people.


Notes for editors:

E.coli is used for the measurement of water faecal contamination. The fact that it is present in water drawn from wells for drinking inside the camps is confirmation that oral fecal contamination is happening. If water is infected with agents that make children/people sick, then it will spread quickly.

Download multimedia materials here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFIO0F79

For more information about UNICEF's work with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh visit http://uni.cf/Rohingya

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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For further information please contact:

Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF Geneva, +41 799639244  cboulierac@unicef.org
Jean Jacques Simon, UNICEF Bangladesh, +880 01713043478,  jsimon@unicef.org
Chris Tidey, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 340 3017  , ctidey@unicef.org 




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