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MSF in Bangladesh, 2009
Field Staff: 185
Reason for Intervention:
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In March, MSF was alerted that more than 20,000 unrecognised Rohingya refugees were living in atrocious conditions in Kutupalong makeshift camp, situated on the edge of the UNHCR camp for official Rohingya refugees. In response, MSF set up an emergency healthcare project, which included the treatment of large numbers of malnourished children and the improvement of water and sanitation. Within one month, MSF had enrolled more than 1,000 malnourished children in its feeding programme and in total treated more than 3,700 children under five years of age.
The project soon developed into a primary healthcare programme responding to the increasing medical needs of those from both the makeshift camp and the host community. Over the year, MSF staff at Kutupalong performed more than 23,000 consultations, more than 1,000 antenatal consultations and, in response to a measles outbreak in the makeshift camp, vaccinated more than 11,000 children.
In June and July, MSF was outraged to witness local authorities violently removing thousands of people from parts of the makeshift camp. MSF teams treated a number of people for trauma related injuries, and spoke out against the abuse. The violence ceased for a short time, but in October MSF once again received refugees suffering from violence related injuries. This time patients told of being driven from their homes in the Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar districts by the authorities and local citizens.
At the end of the year MSF initiated an advocacy campaign calling for an end to the violence, and urging the government of Bangladesh and UNHCR to take urgent action to protect all refugees.
Cyclone and disease
MSF assisted 75,000 people hit by Cyclone Aila in May by distributing relief items, repairing water sources and providing basic healthcare services. MSF also opened a healthcare programme in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast of the country, an area lacking in health services and marked by ethnic tension. Teams have also been working in a clinic in Baghaihat in the southeast and have extended basic healthcare services to eight village health centres.
In 2010 MSF will launch a treatment programme in the northeast of the country to provide treatment for kala azar, a parasitic disease that leads to death if left untreated. A new project will be opened to provide general healthcare and treatment for malnutrition in Kamrangirchar, the single largest concentration of slums in the area of Dhaka. Plans include opening a number of health centres, supporting existing health centres, and providing a system of home-based care for children under five years old who are suffering from severe malnutrition.
MSF has worked in Bangladesh since 1985.