Bangladesh, (REUTERS) 28 Dec- Health workers in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are struggling with a shortage of medics able to administer antitoxins to patients infected with diphtheria that has killed nearly two dozen people, aid officials said.
More than 650,000 Rohingya have fled mainly Buddhist Myanmar to Bangladesh since August, on top of more than 200,000 who fled earlier, according to latest United Nations data.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the lead agency dealing with an outbreak of the bacterial disease in camps sheltering the Rohingya, has treated around 2,000 patients in the past few weeks and is receiving around 100 new cases daily.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes diphtheria as a widespread, severe infectious disease with epidemic potential and a mortality rate of up to 10 percent. MSF has called diphtheria a disease “long forgotten in most parts of the world thanks to increasing rates of vaccination”.
MSF has managed to provide antitoxins to only around 12 patients daily due to the lack of trained medics, said Crystal van Leeuwen, an MSF emergency medical coordinator now in Cox’s Bazar where the refugee camps are located. The British government said on Thursday it was sending a team of more than 40 doctors, nurses and firefighters to Cox’s Bazar for six weeks to deal with the diphtheria outbreak following a request by the WHO and Bangladesh government.