Just a week after a World Health Organization (WHO) representative said the diphtheria situation among Rohingya refugees was “just the tip of the iceburg”, WHO reports that since the first suspected diphtheria case was reported on Nov. 10 by a clinic of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a total of 804 suspected diphtheria cases including 15 deaths were reported among the displaced Rohingya population.
Three-quarters of the cases are reported in children younger than 15 years of age. Fourteen of 15 deaths reported among suspected diphtheria cases were children younger than 15 years of age. To date, no cases of diphtheria have been reported from local communities.
Since August 2017, more than 646 000 people from neighbouring Myanmar have gathered in densely populated camps and temporary settlements with poor access to clean water, sanitation and health services. A multi-agency diphtheria task force, led by the Ministry of Health Family Welfare of Bangladesh, has been providing clinical and public health services to the displaced population. WHO has mobilized US$ 3 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE) to support essential health services in Bangladesh.
WHO is working with health authorities to provide tetanus diphtheria (Td) vaccines for children aged seven to 15 years, as well as pentavalent vaccines (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) for children aged six weeks to six years. A list of essential medicines and required supplies to support the response is being finalized by WHO and partners.The Serum Institute of India has donated 300 000 doses of pentavalent vaccines for use in the response.
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